Many of the 'famous' papers in the scientific community have resulted in Nobel prizes, but certainly that represents only a small fraction of notably important papers throughout scientific history. What are some of the most famous/important non-Nobel prize winning papers/scientific-works?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you make a case as to why this should not be closed as opinion-based? $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ It could also be closed as a list-based question. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ It is opinion-based, too broad, and requires a long list. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ Considering that the Noble prize was only established in 1901, and is not awarded in mathematics, biology, geology, anthropology, sociology, etc. this would be a big list indeed. The answer did a nice job of limiting the scope to the included sciences and the active time period though. Wikipedia lists some more of those en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize#Overlooked_achievements $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


Here are some prominent examples of unrecognized discoveries; the actual publications should be easily findable online. Note that I've only included omitted discoveries, not omitted individuals (such as Lise Meitner's omission for nuclear fission, or Chien-Shiung Wu's for parity conservation). I've also only included work whose inventor was still alive when the Nobels were around (so no Newton!).


  • The periodic table of elements (1869) by Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907).
  • Covalent bonds and electron pairs (1916) by Gilbert Lewis (1875-1946).
  • Transition state theory (1935) by Henry Eyring (1901-1981).


  • Special relativity (1905), Brownian motion (1905) and general relativity (1915) by Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
  • Bose-Einstein statistics (1924) by Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974) and Einstein.
  • Big Bang theory and Hubble's law (1927) by Georges Lemaître (1896-1966)

Physiology or Medicine

  • DNA as the building block of genes (1944) by Oswald Avery (1877-1955)
  • Molecular phylogeny (1977) by Carl Woese (1928-2012)
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    $\begingroup$ To physiology and medicine I would add Frederick Griffith, who did the precursor experiment to the Avery, McCarty, and MacCleod experiments. Matthew Meselson and Frank Stahl for the confirmation of semiconservative DNA replication. Meselson could have also been considered for chemistry as I believe he pioneered the Cesium Chloride Gradient centrifugation method. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ For anyone who's interested, I've expanded this answer in a more appropriate forum: quora.com/… $\endgroup$
    – Uri Granta
    Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ For Physiology and Medicine, the discovery of the cytochromes by David Keilin $\endgroup$
    – tomd
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 19:22

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