From Nobile to Nobel

The Center’s director gave the opening keynote at the HISTELCON conference in Florence.

HISTELCON should be read as the HISTory of ELectrotechnology Conference and is organized by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). The conference in Florence was the 8th international technology history conference held every other year. The Center’s director, Karl Grandin, gave the talk “From Nobile to Nobel: The heated discussions regarding the Prize to Owen Richardson”.

“I would also like to add, for my personal part, that for me, the role that the radio played in the rescue of some of the members of the Nobile expedition was also important.”

This unusual remark by one member of the Nobel Committee refers to the importance of radio technology in the rescue of parts of the Nobile expedition, thus making an unusal technical argument in the Prize discussion. The Prize in question was the reserved physics prize from 1928 to Owen Richardson “for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him”.


Richardson had been one of many candidates but had previously been disregarded because his main contribution was old (from 1901) and that so many other scientists and engineers had contributed to the field. How this changed was the topic of the talk.

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