SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Meeting a Nobel Laureate would likely be more than just a memorable experience. But meeting more than 400?

"They are beautiful encounters," said Peter Badge , a German photographer who has captured nearly 415 intimate portraits of Nobel Prize winners since 2000. Currently, about 40 of Badge's portraits are on display in the Los Alamos History Museum's Rotating Exhibit Gallery, which runs until April 27.

"There are a lot of long stories," Badge said. "Of course John Nash, A Beautiful Mind, who considered himself after 15 years of friendship with me, my protective grandfather."

John Nash Jr., who shared the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — more commonly known as the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences — in 1994, is one of the portraits currently on display. Nash, portrayed by Russell Crowe in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, was a mathematician whose contributions to concepts like game theory are still used in economics today.

Others who line the walls of the museum range from Nelson Mandela, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, to Roy J. Glauber, a former Los Alamos scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005. Of the nearly two dozen Nobel Prize winners associated with the lab, eight have portraits included in the exhibit.

Of all the people Badge has met in the last 18 years, the scientists were some of the ones who stuck out the most.

"Even if they are old, they are young because they have a curiosity of life," Badge said. "They are asking all the time questions and it's beautiful."

Badge began his quest to photograph every living Nobel Laureate in 2000, after being approached by the Smithsonian Institution. But Badge wasn't as enthusiastic at the beginning of the project.

"I just finished a book on Oskar Sala, who was a pioneer on electronic music, and he was 92 years old," Badge said. "My first answer was no, because I don't want to photograph any old persons anymore."

But after meeting former Nobel Prize winners at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, which invites hundreds of international young scientists to Lindau, Germany, every year to meet with former winners, Badge grew more keen on the idea.

"I remember talking to (Edmond) Fischer and he was quite old, 80 years back in the years," Badge said of the biochemist who shared the 1992 prize in physiology or medicine. "And he knew more about music and what is on in cinema and all these things than me, and I understood that it's not a one-way street. They're brilliant people."

Badge said he couldn't be happier to have his work in Los Alamos.

"When I was a kid I always read about Los Alamos," Badge said. "For me, it was really like a dream come true."

For Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, having the exhibit in Los Alamos also seemed like the right choice.

"When I accepted to travel from Norway, this long way here, I did it because I thought it was a very brilliant idea that this whole exhibition on these two books of Nobel Laureates is being exposed here," said Stalsett, who has served on and off the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1985. During this time, Stalsett has been one of the people who has chosen the winner for 17 prizes.

Bringing the exhibit to the Los Alamos History Museum happened through a collaboration with Antonio Redondo, a materials scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mars Inc. and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, said Heather McClenahan, executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Society.

Bringing the exhibit to Los Alamos was a natural step for Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, said board member Nikolaus Turner.

"With Roy Glauber and Hans Bethe being here, and also being members of our founders assembly in Lindau, there was no question," Turner said.

Bethe also worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967, for contributing to the theory of nuclear reactions.

"All of this closes a circle, so to say," Turner said.

___

Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com