I cannot think of an example of a Nobel prize for something similar. The prize usually goes to experimental discoveries of various sorts. Here is a list of some of the more important advances in theoretical physics of the 20th century.
- Lorentz covariance
- Minkowski space
- Noether's theorem
- Chaos theory
- Impossibility of hidden variable theory
- The stability of matter in quantum mechanics
- CPT symmetry
- Spin-statistics theorem
- Gauge theory, lattice models
- Higgs mechanism
- Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems
Without the Higgs to spur spontaneous symmetry-breaking, it turns out, the edifice of fundamental physics — and no fewer than eight of the Nobel prizes awarded to 20 physicists over 35 years — would stand on shaky ground. No wonder boffins have their eye on the news from Geneva.I am deliberately omitting the supposed great breakthrus of the last 30 years, such as String theory, Supersymmetry, Multiverse, and cosmological inflation. These are very unlikely to ever win Nobel prizes.