When Princeton-area journalists tune in to the announcements of Nobel Prize winners, they listen carefully: often, those who win Nobels are affiliated with Princeton University. There have been two in the past two years alone: Professor F. Duncan M. Haldane won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016, and Sir Angus Deaton won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2015.
Whether Princeton is a magnet for those who make major contributions to humanity, or being at Princeton creates an environment that engenders such minds, the fact remains that 41 recipients of the Nobel Prize have a connection to Princeton University.
Since 1901 — the first year it was awarded, as established under the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel — the Nobel Prize has been awarded 579 times to 911 people and organizations, with some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once.
The prize is awarded in physics, chemistry, economic sciences, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. The first Nobel was awarded for the X-ray. Madame Marie Curie, the first woman to receive the award, won the prize for physics in 1903; she won it again, in chemistry, in 1911. Among the others to win more than once were Linus Pauling (chemistry, 1954, and peace, 1962); John Bardeen (physics, 1956 and 1972); and Frederick Sanger (chemistry, 1958 and 1980).
The youngest Nobel recipient ever was Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who, at the age of 15, was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 and went on to campaign for the rights of girls to attend school and be educated. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, at age 17. Before Yousafzai, Lawrence Bragg, who won the prize at the age of 25 in 1915, had held the record for youngest recipient.
Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs boasts four faculty members who have received the economics prize: Deaton (2015), Paul Krugman (2008), Daniel Kahneman (2002), and Sir W. Arthur Lewis (1979). The School’s namesake, Woodrow Wilson (Class of 1879), won the Prize for Peace in 1919.
Through August 17, the Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School is featuring Peter Badge’s photographs of 30 Nobel Laureates who have been Princeton University faculty, staff, or alumni. Presented through the Foundation for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, the exhibit focuses on laureates from the Woodrow Wilson School, with a section on John Forbes Nash Jr. According to press materials, Badge and Nash developed a friendship during the shoots.
Nash, who was a senior research mathematician at Princeton and whose theories are widely used in economics, made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations. He shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994 with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi.
At one point Nash was known as the shadowy “Phantom of Fine Hall,” who would scribble arcane equations on blackboards in the middle of the night. In 1959, just after earning tenure at M.I.T, Nash began showing signs of mental illness and spent several years at psychiatric hospitals, where he was treated for paranoid schizophrenia.
His condition improved in the 1970s, allowing him to return to academic work by the mid-1980s. After winning the Nobel Prize Nash entered a period of renewed activity and confidence and greater control of his mental state. His struggles with mental illness and his recovery became the basis for Sylvia Nasar’s biography, “A Beautiful Mind,” followed by an Academy Award-winning film of the same name with Russell Crowe in the lead role.
Nash, who grew up in West Virginia, where his father was an electrical engineer and mother a schoolteacher before marriage, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Carnegie Institute of Technology and came to Princeton to earn his Ph.D. in mathematics. A resident of Princeton Junction for most of his life, Nash, 86, and his wife, Alicia, 82, died in an automobile accident in 2015. They were in a taxi on their way home from Norway, where Nash had received the Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, one of the most prestigious honors in mathematics. The prize recognized his seminal work in partial differential equations, which are used to describe the basic laws of scientific phenomena. The Abel Prize was considered a long-overdue acknowledgment of his contributions to mathematics.
Badge’s photographs capture Nash riding the Dinky, from Princeton to his home in Princeton Junction, wearing the gray knit cap he sported in colder weather, walking along the roadside near his home. Another image catches him in a pensive move through a glass window, reflecting a snow-covered campus, with a paper coffee cup in his hand. Those who frequently encountered Nash and his family, eating in restaurants or living life in ordinary ways, will feel a sense of nostalgia seeing these.
The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, whose foundation sponsored the exhibit, foster exchange between scientists of different generations, cultures and disciplines. Once every year, since 1951, on the island of Lindau along Lake Constance in southern Germany, 30 Nobel Laureates convene to meet the next generation of leading scientists: hundreds of undergraduates, Ph.D. students, and post-doc researchers from all over the world. How was the universe formed? Can cell biology fight disease? These are among the topics discussed. It’s where Badge made many of his photographs.
Badge wants his portraits to be intimate and authentic. He becomes close to some of his subjects while photographing them. When he met physicist Steven Chu, and the two of them went for a swim in Lindau, Badge had to remind Chu he was there to take his picture. Chu donned his swim goggles for the photo. Physicist Hans Georg Dehmelt also posed at the pool. Another physicist posed in the garden — in a tree, actually.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1974, Peter Badge (pronounced “baad-geh”) began his career after earning a bachelor’s degree in art history at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1993. While working as a freelance artist/photographer for magazines, Badge decided he wanted to pursue his own ideas.
Choosing portraiture as his primary focus, Badge began photographing Nobel Laureates in 2000, bringing viewers face-to-face with Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Doris Lessing, Saul Bellow, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Harold Pinter, James Watson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Linda Buck, and Paul Samuelson, among others.
He accompanied Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, then president of Timor-Leste, on a state visit, and the neurophysiologist Linda Buck while she purchased her wedding dress. He has photographed artists, scientists, and politicians to create photographic series such as “Men on the Moon — From Armstrong to Aldrin,” “Icons of Economy,” and “Philanthropists.” Since 2012 Badge has also been photographing recipients of the Turing Award, the Abel Prize, the Fields Medal, and the Nevanlinna Prize.
Badge’s black-and-white photos not only reveal the personality of the portrayed laureates but generate recognition for their scientific, literary, or humanitarian achievements. The project has taken Badge all around the globe.
He also focuses his lens on noted personalities such as electronic music pioneer Oskar Sala and popular German musician Marius Muller-Westernhagen. With commissions from the Deutsche Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery, and others, Badge is based in Berlin and writes books about his worldwide work. In “Ingenious Encounters,” he tells of his meetings with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barack Obama, Kim Dae Jung, Desmond Tutu, Gunter Grass, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others.
Badge works with black and white film and processes the images digitally, though doesn’t alter them much. He says the photographs are not the most important thing. “It’s meeting with them and talking with them and getting to know them and gather these experiences.”
Peter Badge: Princeton’s Nobel Laureates, Bernstein Gallery, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. Through Thursday, August 17, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free. 609-497-2441 or wws.princeton.edu/about-wws/bernstein-gallery.