What is the Nobel Prize and what is its significance?

The Nobel Prizes are being announced, and perhaps the most famous of all, the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, October 7.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the person who has ‘done the most or the best work to promote friendship between nations, to abolish or reduce standing armies, and to establish and promote peace.’

It has more than 300 candidates in the year 2022, but the full list will be kept in a safe for the next 50 years. Some of the favorites for the award include the Kew Independent newspaper, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Skanoskaya.

But why are the organization’s awards so prestigious and who has won them in the past?

What is the Nobel Prize?

Nobel is the name of the series of prizes in which awards are given in fields like chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and peace.

Nobel Prizes are awarded to people who have ‘made a great contribution to humanity’ during the past 12 months.

This is the statement of the Swedish businessman Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite. He deposited almost all his assets in a fund to endow these awards. In the year 1901, Nobel Prizes were distributed for the first time.

In 1968, the Central Bank of Sweden added the Prize for Economic Sciences to it.

According to the organization’s website (, from 1901 to 2021, 943 people and 25 institutions have been awarded Nobel Prizes in memory of Alfred Nobel.

From 1901 to 2021, 58 women have received Nobel Prizes.

Only two people, French writer Jean-Paul Sartre and Vietnamese leader Le Duc Thu, refused to accept the Nobel Prize.

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How are Nobel Prize winners chosen?

Academicians, university teachers, scientists, past winners and others file nominations on their behalf. Under Nobel Foundation rules, the list of nominees cannot be published for the next 50 years. No one can nominate himself.

Nobel Prize winners are called Laureates (meaning Nobel Laureates). It is symbolic of the wreath given to victors in ancient Greece.

Each prize can be won by more than one person, but no more than three people can win one prize.

There have been some years when the Nobel Prize was not awarded to anyone. Most of them date back to the First and Second World Wars.

It is said in the principles of the Nobel Foundation. That if no one deserves an award in a field, it will not be awarded to anyone. Rather, the prize money will be carried over to the next year.

What do Nobel Prize winners get?

The NP for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economic sciences are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Nobel Peace Prize is chosen in Norway. Five members are appointed to its committee by Navarre’s parliament and the award is presented in the capital, Oslo.

Each prize winner receives three items:

  • Nobel diplomas, these are rare works of art
  • Nobel medals or medals, which have different designs
  • One crore Swedish krona (currently equivalent to 911,000 US dollars). Prize money is split in case of multiple entries for a prize. They have to give a lecture to receive money

Notable Nobel Prize Winners

In 2009, former US President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his ‘extraordinary efforts to strengthen global diplomacy and promote cooperation among different peoples’.

President Obama said he was “surprised” by it. He thanked him and said that he would use him for effective measures. However, his Nobel Prize came under criticism, especially on the grounds that he assumed the presidency just 12 days before the nomination deadline.

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Other notable winners include US President Jimmy Carter (2002), the European Union (2012), the United Nations and its then Secretary-General Kofi Annan (joint award in 2001) and St. Teresa of Kalkata (1979).

Albert Einstein (physics 1921) and Marie Curie (in 1903 for physics and 1911 for chemistry) have also been awarded NPs.

Children’s education activist Malala Yousafzai (joint award in 2014) was just 17 years old when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the youngest recipient of this award.

In 2019, 98-year-old John B. Goodenough received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is the oldest recipient of this award.

Only two people, French writer Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964 and Vietnamese leader Lee Duc Thu in 1973, have refused to accept the Nobel Prize. Four others were barred by their countries from receiving the award.

In 2016, it was uncertain whether singer Bob Dylan would accept the Nobel Prize in Literature. He accepted the award by giving a lecture in June 2017.

What did the Nobel winners buy with the prize money?

Marie Curie and her husband Peri Curie won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and used the prize money to further scientific research. 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics winner John Mather donated the prize money to his charity.

In 1993, British biochemist Richard Roberts spent his prize money on the croquet lawn after winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine. While 1993 winner Philip Sharp bought a 100-year-old Federal-style home.

Sir Paul Nurse, the 2001 winner in the field of medicine, bought himself an expensive motorbike. Meanwhile, Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 laureate for literature, established a museum in Istanbul.

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, who is also a newspaper editor, has auctioned his Nobel Peace Prize medal for US$103.5 million to help Ukrainian children displaced by the war.

Source: BBC

Farhad Safi
Sharing insights and perspectives on the stories that matter.

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