“The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. It ended because it was time for a re-think about how we live.” – William McDonough
“Someday you may tax it” – Michael Faraday’s response to William Gladstone when asked to comment on the utility of his blue-sky research into the newly discovered phenomenon of electricity.
“.. this new knowledge has all to do with honour and country, but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.” RR Wilson in response to a query as to why USA should spend money on pure science.
The above three quotes make an interesting case study about the need for pure science in the development of a society. While a Nobel Prize may add to prestige etc. a lot of research is more fundamental in nature providing an incremental improvement in society. Most of it is a result of a faceless scientist in a laboratory because the final step that produced the technology was based on a lot of earlier work and hence it is difficult to credit a single individual. Typically, controversies that surround the awarding of a Nobel Prize highlight this issue with great precision.