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The Story of The Nobel Prize

Siddhi Agarwal

@ @student | | others

The Nobel Prize has acquired the tag of being the most prestigious prize in whatever field it is awarded. The fields in which it is awarded are: Peace, Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and economics. The first awards were presented in 1901 but not in all the categories. This prize is named after the Swedish scientist, Alfred Nobel.

Alfred Nobel: A brief Bio

Alfred Nobel was born on 21st October 1833 in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Born into a relatively well-heeled family, Nobel had informal education, having been tutored at home until, the age of sixteen.

In 1866, Nobel invented dynamite and earned a patent for it. He also created controllable combustible that made blasting rock and the construction of canals and tunnels relatively safe. After the invention of dynamite he set up large companies and labs in more than 20 countries and amassed a fortune.

About the Prize

On the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s death, on 10th December 1901, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded. The inaugural Nobel Prizes were awarded in the fields of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Peace. The Nobel Prize in Economics was instituted in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden in celebration of its 300th anniversary and in memory of Alfred Nobel.

While the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences administers the Prizes in Physics and Chemistry, the Royal Caroline Medical Institute awards the Prize in Medicine. The Prize in Literature is decided by the Swedish Academy. Only the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a non-Swedish body; it is awarded by The Parliament of Norway.

The Prizes are not automatically awarded each year. They can be withheld if there are no worthy candidates or when the international situation makes awarding the Prizes impracticable. No awards were given between 1940 and 1942 because of World War II.

Currently, the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously. From 1974, The Statues of The Nobel Foundation stipulate that a Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement. Before 1974, the Nobel Prize has only been awarded posthumously twice: to Dag Hammarskjold (1961) and Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1931).

Currently a Nobel Prize can only be awarded to a deceased person who has been named as Prize winner for the year but who dies before the Prize awarding ceremony which is always held in December. Only the Peace Prize can be awarded to both Institutions and Individuals. Each Prize can be given to a maximum of three persons per year. Prizes must be awarded at least once every five year.

The Prize winner takes home a medal, a Diploma (citation) and cash. The cash component varies every year. The interest earned from the fund ( bequeathed by Alfred Nobel) constitutes the cash component each year. If there are multiple winners in one category then the Prize is shared among the winners.

 The Nobel commemorative medal was designed by Rune Karlzone. The reverse of medal shows a tunnel blasted by dynamite, and a detonator or blasting cup. The obverse features a portrait of Alfred Nobel, with the Latin inscription “creavit et promovit” i.e. he created and promoted.

Selection of winners

Every year a committee solicits nominations from thousand of select individuals. These individuals must submit their nominations by February 1 of the year for which the nomination is being made.. Every year there are about 100-250 nominations for each Prize, the highest number being for the Peace Prize. If someone nominates herself/ himself, he/ she is automatically disqualified.

Once the committee receives the nominations, it then seeks the help of experts to evaluate the nominations. The recommendations by the experts are then forwarded by the committee to the Prize awarding institution, which then votes for the final winners. The Prizes are announced in October and presented on 10 December.

Venue of Prize Distribution

The Nobel Prize (all except the Peace Prize) are presented to the winners at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Stockholm. At the ceremony, the winners accept their medals and diploma from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Peace Prize is awarded at the Oslo City Hall in the Norwegian Capital. The award ceremony is marked by speeches from the Nobel Laureates followed by the Thanksgiving speeches. At the end the entire audience stands up to the Swedish National Anthem.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has won the most Nobel Prizes i.e. 3 in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Apart from it the only other person to receive more than one prize is Marie S. Curie for physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.