Nobel Prizes, annual monetary awards granted to individuals or institutions for outstanding contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, international peace, and economic sciences. The Nobel prizes are internationally recognized as the most prestigious awards in each of these fields. The prizes were established by Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Bernhard Nobel, who set up a fund for them in his will. The first Nobel prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901, the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s death.
In his will, Nobel directed that most of his fortune be invested to form a fund, the interest of which was to be distributed annually "in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." He stipulated that the interest be divided into five equal parts, each to be awarded to the person who made the most important contribution in one of five different fields. In addition to the three scientific awards and the literature award, a prize would go to the person who had done "the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Nobel also specified certain institutions that would select the prizewinners. The will indicated that “no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize.”
After his own experiments led him to the lucrative invention of dynamite, Alfred Nobel established a fund to reward other innovators “contributing most materially to the benefit of mankind.” The Nobel Prizes are awarded in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, international peace, and economic sciences. The awards reflect Nobel’s interests; in addition to performing valuable chemical research, he spoke several languages, traveled widely, and wrote poetry.
In 1968 the Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, created an economics prize to commemorate the bank's 300th anniversary. This prize, called the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, was first awarded in 1969. The bank provides a cash award equal to the other Nobel prizes.
In 1900 the Nobel Foundation was established to manage the fund and to administer the activities of the institutions charged with selecting winners. The fund is controlled by a board of directors, which serves for two-year periods and consists of six members: five elected by the trustees of the awarding bodies mentioned in the will, and the sixth appointed by the Swedish government. All six members are either Swedish or Norwegian citizens.
In his will, Nobel stated that the prizes for physics and chemistry would be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, the prize for physiology or medicine by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the literature prize by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, and the peace prize by a five-person committee elected by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament). After the economics prize was created in 1968, the Swedish Academy of Sciences has held the responsibility of selecting the winners of that award.
All the prize-awarding bodies have set up Nobel committees consisting of three to five people who make recommendations in the selection process. Additional specialists with expertise in relevant fields assist the committees. The Nobel committees examine nominations and make recommendations to the prize-awarding institutions. After deliberating various opinions and recommendations, the prize-awarding bodies vote on the final selection, and then they announce the winner. The deliberations and voting are secret, and prize decisions cannot be appealed.
A prize for achievement in a particular field may be awarded to an individual, divided equally between two people, or awarded jointly among two or three people. According to the Nobel Foundation’s statutes, the prize cannot be divided among more than three people, but it can go to an institution. A prize may go unawarded if no candidate is chosen for the year under consideration, but each of the prizes must be awarded at least once every five years. If the Nobel Foundation does not award a prize in a given year, the prize money remains in the trust. Likewise, if a prize is declined or not accepted before a specified date, the Nobel Foundation retains the prize money in its trust.
The prize amounts are based on the annual yield of the fund capital. In 1948 Nobel prizes were about $32,000 each; in 1997 they were about $1 million each. In addition to a cash award, each prizewinner also receives a gold medal and a diploma bearing the winner's name and field of achievement. Prizewinners are known as Nobel laureates.
Nominations of candidates for the prizes can be made only by those who have received invitations to do so. In the fall of the year preceding the award, Nobel committees distribute invitations to members of the prize-awarding bodies, to previous Nobel prize winners, and to professors in relevant fields at certain colleges and universities. In addition, candidates for the prize in literature may be proposed by invited members of various literary academies, institutions, and societies. Upon invitation, members of governments or certain international organizations may nominate candidates for the peace prize. The Nobel Foundation’s statutes do not allow individuals to nominate themselves. Invitations to nominate candidates and the nominations themselves are both confidential.
Nominations of candidates are due on February 1 of the award year. Then, Nobel committee members and consultants meet several times to evaluate the qualifications of the nominees. The various committees cast their final votes in October and immediately notify the laureates that they have won.
The prizes are presented annually at ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden, and in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. In Stockholm, the king of Sweden presents the awards in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and economic sciences. The peace prize ceremony takes place at the University of Oslo in the presence of the king of Norway. After the ceremonies, Nobel Prize winners give a lecture on a subject connected with their prize-winning work. The winner of the peace prize lectures in Oslo, the others in Stockholm. The lectures are later printed in the Nobel Foundation's annual publication, Les Prix Nobel (The Nobel Prizes)
Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and also the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. Curie coined the term “radioactive” to describe the uranium emissions she observed in early experiments. With her husband, she later discovered the elements polonium and radium. A dedicated and respected physicist, her brilliant work with radioactivity eventually cost her her life; she died from overexposure to radiation.
Recipient of the Nobel Prize for economics
Hayek, Friedrich August von (1899-1992), Austrian-born economist and Nobel laureate. Born in Vienna, von Hayek earned a doctorate at Vienna University in 1927 and spent some years in public service. He began a long academic career by holding the post of professor of economics and statistics at the University of London (1931-50); subsequently he was professor of moral and economic science at the University of Chicago (1950-62). An economic traditionalist, von Hayek won a wide reputation with The Road to Serfdom (1944), in which he argued that governments should not intervene in the control of inflation or other economic matters. He retired in 1962 but was later appointed professor of economics at the University of Freiburg, in West Germany (now part of Germany). Returning to Austria in 1969, he became visiting professor at the University of Salzburg. In 1974 he and the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal received the Nobel Prize in economic science for their “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic luctuations and for their pioneering analysis of the interdependence of economic, social, and institutional phenomena.
The Recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature
Galsworthy, John (1867-1933), English novelist and playwright, who was one of the most popular English novelists and dramatists of the early 20th century. He was born in Kingston Hills, Surrey, and educated at Harrow School and the University of Oxford. He was admitted to the bar in 1890 but soon abandoned law for writing. Galsworthy wrote his early works under the pen name John Sinjohn. His fiction is concerned principally with English upper middle-class life; his dramas frequently find their themes in this stratum of society, but also often deal, sympathetically, with the economically and socially oppressed and with questions of social justice. Most of his novels deal with the history, from Victorian times through the first quarter of the 20th century, of an upper middle-class English family, the Forsytes. The principal member of the family is Soames Forsyte, who exemplifies the drive of his class for the accumulation of material wealth, a drive that often conflicts with human values. The Forsyte series includes The Man of Property (1906), the novelette “Indian Summer of a Forsyte” (pub. in the collection Five Tales,1918), In Chancery (1920), Awakening (1920), and To Let (1921). These five titles were published as The Forsyte Saga (1922). The Forsyte story was continued by Galsworthy in The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), and Swan Song (1928), which were published together under the title A Modern Comedy (1929). These were followed in turn by Maid in Waiting (1931), Flowering Wilderness (1932), and Over the River (1933), published together posthumously as End of the Chapter (1934). Among the plays by Galsworthy are Strife (1909), Justice (1910), The Pigeon (1912), Old English (1924), and The Roof (1929). Galsworthy was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in literature.
The Recipient of the Nobel Prize for physics
Landau, Lev Davidovich (1908-68), Soviet theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, noted chiefly for his pioneer work in low-temperature physics (cryogenics). He was born in Baku, and educated at the universities of Baku and Leningrad. In 1937 Landau became professor of theoretical physics at the S. I. Vavilov Institute of Physical Problems in Moscow. His development of the mathematical theories that explain how superfluid helium behaves at temperatures near absolute zero earned him the 1962 Nobel Prize in physics. His writings on a wide variety of subjects relating to physical phenomena include some 100 papers and many books, among which is the widely known nine-volume Course of Theoretical Physics, published in 1943 with Y. M. Lifshitz. In January 1962, he was gravely injured in an automobile accident; he was several times considered near death and suffered a severe impairment of memory. By the time of his death he had been able to make only a partial recovery.
The recipient of the Nobel Prize for peace
Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and formerly the ruler of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is believed to be a reincarnation of the Buddha. When he dies, his soul is thought to enter the body of a newborn boy, who, after being identified by traditional tests, becomes the new Dalai Lama.
The first to bear the title of Dalai Lama was Sonam Gyatso, grand lama of the Drepung monastery and leader of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect, who received it in 1578 from the Mongol chief Altan Khan; it was then applied retroactively to the previous leaders of the sect. In 1642 another Mongol chief, Gushri Khan, installed the fifth Dalai Lama as Tibet's spiritual and temporal ruler. His successors governed Tibet—first as tributaries of the Mongols, but from 1720 to 1911 as vassals of the emperor of China.
When the Chinese Communists occupied Tibet in 1950, they came into increasing conflict with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. He left the country after an unsuccessful rebellion in 1959 and thereafter lived in India. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for leading the nonviolent opposition to continued Chinese rule in Tibet. In 1995 the Dalai Lama came into conflict with Chinese authorities over the identification of a new Panchen Lama (the second most senior Tibetan religious authority). In 1996 he published Violence and Compassion, in which he and French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriиre consider topics of political and spiritual interest.