I only found the following at the Nobel Prize webpage:

Why were the Nobel Prizes not awarded in those years? In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: "If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation's restricted funds." During World War I and II, fewer Nobel Prizes were awarded.

which does not says much. In 1916, 1940-42 it is quite reasonable to assume that there was no awarding due to the world wars. But then, what about 31 and 34? Of course there were many contributions to physics which where achieved in the preceding years and that could have been awarded.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The Nobel committee does not consider everything achieved, only what was nominated, and there are extra conditions on confirmation and applications. As the story with Einstein shows (he never got the prize for relativity despite being nominated twice), their judgments were often colored by antisemitic and other biases, especially in 1930-s. If they could not reach agreement on available choices not awarding was a convenient way out. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Chemistry also has various years it was not awarded. 1940-42 are overlaps with Physics, so it certainly seems possible that the war interfered there, but there are times of peace where it wasn't awarded. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 1, 2017 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ It's been speculated that Henry Moseley would have been a recipient of the 1916 prize, had he not died in the war. $\endgroup$
    – Anyon
    Sep 10, 2021 at 0:46


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