Almost 60% of the participants in this meeting became Nobel Prize Laureates

Almost 60% of the participants in this meeting became Nobel Prize Laureates

(Christoph Haug) #1

Starting in 1911, the Solvay Conferences brought together Scientists in Brussels to discuss what today would be called “cutting edge research” in physics and chemistry. Of the 29 participants of the 1927 meeting (which was about Quantum Mechanics) 17 were or later became winners of a Nobel Prize. That is a Nobel Prize Winner Rate (NPWR) of 59 percent!

The participants of the 5th Solvay Conference (1927). Photo credit: [Benjamin Couprie, Institut International de Physique de Solvay]( Coloured version by [u/mygrapefruit](

Because of this whopping NPWR, the picture taken at the conference is often described as the “most intelligent picture ever taken”. This can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. It was a meeting of intelligent people: The meeting is merely a coincidence where the pathways of numerous smart people met, many of which happened to be(come) Nobel Laureates (and who would have become Nobel Laureates in any case).
  2. The meeting itself was intelligent: The meeting had an impact on these people winning a Nobel Prize (without that meeting, some may not have won the prize).

Taking meetings seriously means to at least consider option 2. It also means to see meetings as more than networking events, where people enhance their network ties, but also that the way the meeting is organized has an effect on what the meeting does.

I think it is in this sense that @jsandler and @renita.thedvall see meetings as makers (see also their book, which can be accessed for free until the end of July). Also @MFDuffy’s “agency of meetings” goes in that direction. And in @f.cooren’s ventriloqual theory of communication, meetings are a great opportunities for making all kinds of things speak, including other meetings.

BTW: the Solvay Conferences are still held today. This year was the 27th edition on “The physics of living matter: Space, time and information in biology.”