But in science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.
-- Sir Francis Darwin, "First Galton Lecture"
On December 10, 1903, with King Oscar II and other members of the royal family looking on, four Nobel prize winners took center stage at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Conspicuous by their absence were the physicists Pierre and Marie Curie, who were represented by the French Ministry. The recipients stepped forward in turn to be addressed by Dr. H. R. Törnebladh, president of the academy, after which the king presented each with a diploma, a gold medal, and 141,000 kroner (about 40,000 U.S. dollars), from interest on the bequest of Alfred Bernhard Nobel, the Swedish chemist and inventor of dynamite.
The audience stirred when the name of Svante August Arrhenius was called, and for good reason. The forty-four-yearold professor of chemistry was the first native son to be so honored. Short, thickset, with a neatly trimmed blond beard and the fierce blue eyes of his Viking forebears, the laureate faced Dr. Törnebladh.
"Around 1880," the president intoned, when Arrhenius was in his early twenties and studying for his doctorate, he had traced the movement of electric current through various solvents, arriving at "a new explanation of the causes of chemical