In his outstanding review article
Don Gemmell traces the start of modern channeling to 1960
(Reviews of Modern Physics v46, 129, (1974)). One could argue that
channeling is one of the few physical effects actually discovered in a
Monte Carlo calculation. This happened when Oen
and Robinson investigated particle behavior in crystal lattices
about 1963 using an IBM 7090 and noticed that particles moving near
planes and axes had anomalously long ranges.
Since the early sixties channeling has been explored for a wide variety of materials over an enormous energy regime. It has been used for studies ranging from material characterization to elementary particle experiments. The variety of applications and even the "practical" uses are in some ways similar to applications of recoilless nuclear resonance absorption, the so-called Mössbauer effect. The Mössbauer effect was crowned with a Nobel Prize just a few years after it was discovered. It created a new and very active research community in just a few short years. (Mössbauer was still a graduate student when he made his first investigations.) While channeling did not burst on the research scene like a supernova it did have a large impact and may have remained a more active field in the long run.
So why hasn't there been a Nobel Prize in channeling? Partly
may have been due to the fact that the initial clues for channeling
from several directions. Partly channeling may just not have been
enough. In fact, the first person to observe that channeling might be
possible did receive a Nobel Prize but for something different. Johannes
was awarded the 1919 Prize for the discovery of the splitting of atomic
lines in an electric field. In his studies of the passage of charged
particles through matter Stark apparently suggested the existence of
channeling in 1912.
While many people contributed to the development of modern channeling my favorite for a Nobel prize would have been Jens Lindhard, a professor of physics at Aarhus University in Denmark. Lindhard was one of Bohr's last associates. Often forgotten is that Bohr had been interested in the interactions of particles with matter. Lindhard may have inherited this interest from Bohr but he made many other contributions to physics. In Lindhard's 1998 obituary in Physics Today Sigmund and Andersen note in particular his work on the study of the electron gas. Lindhard divised the definitive theoretical treatment of channeling. The critical angle for channeling, the angle relative to a crystal plane or axis beyond which a particle will not channel, is sometimes called the Lindhard angle.
One feature Lindhard missed was the important question of what happens to a channeled particle in a bent crystal. This was subsequently investigated by my colleague, Edic Tsyganov.