Theorists vs. Experimentalists – Who’s work is more important?

It is perhaps blindly obvious that theorists and experimentalists are of equal importance. This is a rather simple and fundamental idea, it is analogous to the question of “Which one is more important? Your lungs or your stomach?” Of course, the answer is both are important. The reason is, just in case you haven’t realized, you need both organs to survive.

Yet many people fail to follow that idea. And this isn’t necessarily their fault. People’s opinions are often shaped by the greater environment, and that been said, for many years there exists an atmosphere of praising the theorists and underappreciating the work of the experimentalists. Now, give me 3 names of famous physicists, most people will think of Einstein, Newton, Hawking, Feynmann, and so on. The fact is, they are all theoretical physicists.

The under-appreciation of experimentalists can not only be seen among the general public, but also within the scientific community. In 2013, one year after the famous Higgs boson had been discovered by hundreds of experimental physicists at CERN, the Nobel prize in physics was awarded to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, who proposed the theory near 50 years ago!


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