Can an amateur win a Nobel Prize?

Do elaborate.

The romanticized version of Ramanujan’s life is that he grew up in a poor Indian family and got no formal training in mathematics. No one knew about his mathematical ability. Out of nowhere he wrote to G. H. Hardy at Cambridge University, sending him a list of theorms that he had proved. Hardy was so impressed that he arrange for Ramanujan to come work with him at Cambridge.

The truth is that he grew up in a Brahmin family and his father was a clerk. If you could read, you were in a reasonably well-off family at that point in India. His mathematical ability was recognized by all his teachers from an early age and he always got encouragement from others. He went to university, but he neglected the non-mathematical subjects there, so he was tossed out. Other mathematicians there knew how good he was, so they arranged a job for him as a clerk where he could work during the day and do mathematical research during the evening. He published one mathematical paper in a journal during this time. Other mathematicians thought his research seemed similar to that of Hardy, so they suggested that he write to Hardy.

What he sent to Hardy was a list of theorems without proofs. Hardy could see that some of them had already been proved. Of the rest, some turned out to be wrong. Most of the theorems were unproven at that point and turned out eventually to be correct. He and others arranged for Ramanujan to come to Cambridge. There Hardy worked with Ramanujan to understand how to prove the theorems that he stated.

A lot of good astronomical work is still done by avocational scientists. If one of those people publishes a great new idea or great new observation, it could be big. For example, a new type of galaxy, Hanny’s Voorwerp was discovered by amateurs who participated in a crowdsourcing project for astronomy. If prizes were to be awarded for such work, I suspect they would go to the professional astronomers who set up the crowdsourcing project, and not to the amateurs. Unless said amateurs get co-author credit on the papers.

Churchill? The man had been writing for a half century before he won the Nobel prize. Some 40 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and an estimated 8-10 million words. He had to,he had to support his luxurious life style.

Good point, perhaps we should classify him as an amateur politician.

To repeat - Jocelyn Bell as an example

She was a grad student at the time she discovered pulsars - on her way to being a professional. She has a well-respected on-going career as an astronomer. And she is calmer and more accepting about being robbed of the Nobel than I could ever be.

You’re thinking of Richard Gatling, inventer of the Gatling Gun.

Nobel didn’t even invent dynamite as a weapon, he invented it as a mining tool.