Computer science wins Chemistry Nobel prize

October 18, 2013 at 1:51 am 6 comments

A big win for computational science, and for the argument that computer science is important, even for people who aren’t going to be professional software developers.

When he conceived his prestigious prizes in 1895, Alfred Nobel never imagined the need to honor an unknown field called computer science.

But the next best thing happened on Wednesday: Computing achieved a historic milestone when the Nobel Prize for chemistry went to a trio of researchers — one of them a Stanford University professor — for their groundbreaking work using computers to model the complex chemistry that sustains life.

“Computers in biology have not been sufficiently appreciated. Now they have been,” said ebullient winner Michael Levitt of Stanford’s School of Medicine, the university’s second Nobel winner this week.

via Stanford’s Nobel chemistry prize honors computer science – San Jose Mercury News.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mokter  |  October 18, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Thanks for the post!!

  • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    The headline is a bit of an overstatement. The prize was for computational chemistry—there is almost no “computer science” involved. If you are looking for a CS Nobel prize, the one for CAT scans in 1979 is a better case—that really was for an algorithm.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  October 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      I’m not quite getting it. Are you arguing that computer science is solely the study of algorithms? If it isn’t algorithmic, it’s not computer science?

      • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        I would accept that the Nobel prize was for “computational science”, but not for “computer science”. What was being studied was not primarily computation, but approximations to physics, in which the computer was a useful tool.

        Not everything done on a computer is computer science, nor is everyone who uses a computer a computer scientist.

        I don’t have a hard boundary between computer science and other fields (I have math and CS degrees, and have been a professor of computer engineering and of bioinformatics), but I think that this particular body of work was far more about the chemistry and physics than about the computers.


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