Conferencia Internacional de Física AtómicaNo fewer than six Nobel prize winners will be present at the International Congress on Atomic Physics, the most important on this field that is held every two years and which will take place in July 2018 in Barcelona, at Fira’s Palace of Congresses in Montjuïc. Over 900 physicists specialized in the study of atoms are expected to attend.

Besides the inherent importance of the congress, one of its main attractions is the session intended for the general public in which six Nobel Prize winners, will take part, each recognised for their contributions to research into the constituent elements of material.

Ganadores del Premio Nobel de Física Atómica en BarcelonaThey are William D. Philips, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Wolfgang Ketterle, Roy J. Glauber, Theodor W. Hänsch and Serge Haroche, who will discuss the past, present and future of atomic physics on Tuesday 24th. This is without doubt good news for Barcelona and a chance to learn about some of these important discoveries from the people responsible for them, who have enabled physics to take us forward towards a technological future enhanced by the fascinating properties of quantum physics.

Science is gradually emerging from a period of obscurity as society has become increasingly convinced of the role of scientific research in social progress.

Good relations with the Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prizes have always has an affinity for Barcelona. Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Nobel laureate for Medicine in 1906, made vital discoveries about how nerve cells functioned. He was chair of Histology at the University of Barcelona (UB) between 1887 and 1892.

Albert Einstein en Barcelona

Albert Einstein in the Escola Industrial of Barcelona. Source: ETSEIB, UPC

The visits of two Nobel winners at the start and middle of the last century had profound effects on the local scientific community. Albert Einstein, Nobel laureate for Physics came to Barcelona between the 22nd and 28th February 1923 to give advanced courses organized by the Mancomunidad de Cataluña.

In 1948 it was Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, who came to visit, giving conferences at the Old Hospital of Contagious Diseases (today, the Hospital del Mar) and the Royal Academy of Medicine. He also met local scientists between the 26th May and 7th June of 1948.

The universities of Barcelona regularly invite Nobel winners to take part in their activities as headline speakers.

Gabriel García Márquez in the Barcelona’s Rambla, 1970. Source: Barcelona City Council

In 2004, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya held a first meeting of Nobel winners to discuss the moral and intellectual challenges of the 21st century, the commitment of education towards the needs of humanity and the construction of peace and equality. The second meeting, held a few years later debated whether the role of the university lay in public service or as a marketable good.

The Nobel winners for literature Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, outstanding figures in the Latin American literary boom, lived in the barrio of Sarrià in Barcelona in the 1960s, and José Saramago, who won the prize in 1998, enjoyed a close relation with the city.


Nobel winners at Fira

The Nobel peace prize winners Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) and Rigoberta Menchu (1992) both have close ties to Barcelona. In November 2015, the same Palace of Congresses where the physicists are now meeting was the site of the 15th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Winners, which was mostly occupied in discussing the refugee crisis, climate change and the challenges facing humanity.

It should also be recalled that it is not the first time that Fira de Barcelona has welcomed a Nobel Prize winning physicist. The Expoquimia salón 2008 was inaugurated by Kurt Wüthrich, who had won the Physics Prize six years earlier.