Disclaimer: For this post, I am going by popular accounts of the contributions of great people like Sudarshan, Feynman and Glauber.
The latest is by Ranjit Nair, who has an op-ed in today’s Times of India on the issue of who deserved one half of this year’s Physics Nobel: Roy Glauber of Harvard or E.C.G. Sudarshan of the University of Texas at Austin; the other half of the Prize was shared by two experimental physicists. I wrote about this topic a while ago in my other blog. So, what’s new?
Nair, who is the Director of Centre for Philosophy and Foundations of Science (Prof. Sudarshan is the President of the Centre’s Board of Advisors) indicates that Sudarshan also missed out on credit for some of his earliest work that Feynman did sometime later (I am not sure about the details here). This particular story has also been told by Sudarshan’s thesis advisor himself (I don’t have a link), and it goes like this: Sudarshan’s Ph.D. work was presented in one or two conferences. However, the paper by Murray Gell-Mann and Feynman appeared a few months before that by Sudarshan and his advisor.
So, it appears that in both cases, Sudarshan’s contributions appeared in print a few months after the ones that went on to become highly celebrated. In the first case (involving Feynman), Sudarshan was clearly a pioneer. In the latter (involving Glauber), his ideas and work were far better, but came after those of the Prize winner.
With this retelling, it now appears to me that Sudarshan’s main claim rests on the superiority (and not precedence) of his version of the theory. Given that the Prize was already shared by three scientists (apparently, Nobel Prizes cannot be shared by more than three people), the Nobel Committee’s decision to leave him out seems, if not totally fair, at least understandable.
Unless, of course, the demand (by Sudarshan and his supporters) is for the Prize to be awarded to Sudarshan instead of Glauber. I don’t think they are making that demand.
See this story for more details about the Glauber-Sudarshan controversy. Peter Woit mentions it in his blog and gets a bunch of interesting comments about Feynman’s celebrated work. No, they are not talking about Sudarshan, but a German scientist called Stueckelberg!