The incredible history of the most prestigious prizes in the world- The Nobel Prizes

The announcement of the Nobel Prizes 2021 last month was not only a grand event in itself, but these prizes also have a history which is sure to leave us all in awe! The Nobel Prizes are separate prizes that are awarded to people who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” Initially, the same was conferred for excellence in the following 5 categories : Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology , Literature and Peace. In 1968, the Sveriges Riksbank, on its 300th anniversary, donated a large sum of money to the Nobel Foundation, leading to the setup of a sixth category; i.e. a Nobel for work in Economic Sciences.

But what about these prizes’ commendable history? When and How were these prizes established? 

Let’s take a look. 

How would you feel if you wake up one day and pick up the newspaper out of habit, only to see your own obituary printed in it? That indeed seems strange and unusual. But that is exactly what happened with Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor, chemist, engineer, businessman and philanthropist. Alfred Nobel was very popularly known for inventing dynamite and other explosives, and thus was also sometimes called ‘the merchant of death’. He was beyond shocked to see his own obituary printed in a French newspaper, 8 years before he actually died. It was titled , “The merchant of death is dead.” Actually, it was his brother who had died a while back in France ; apparently, they mistook him as Alfred himself.

But what Alfred found disappointing was that when he would actually die, that’s how he would be remembered too; with a mere obituary, in the corner of a newspaper. This saddened him and he immediately thought of changing his ‘Will’ in order to be remembered differently. He mentioned in his Will that he would want all his belongings and the estate to be used to honour the people who serve humanity in various ways. The portion of the Will talking about the Nobel Peace Prize, for instance, said , “[one award shall be given] to the person who has done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition o reduction of standing armies, and for holding and promotion of peace congresses.” He also mentioned while awarding people, “no consideration be given to nationality, but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person, whether or not they are Scandinavian.” Alfred left 31 million SEK, which amount to about 342 million dollars today, for the establishment of these prizes! Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 5 years after Alfred Nobel’s death!!

Alfred Nobel

Today, the Nobel Prizes are one of the most prestigious prizes in the world, with each Nobel consisting of $1,400,000 and a gold medal for the candidate.

The prizes in the fields of Physics, Chemistry and Economic Sciences are decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The prizes in the field of Physiology or Medicine are determined by the Swedish Royal Caroline Medico Surgical Institute .

The prize in the field of literature is decided by the Swedish Academy.

The Nobel Peace prize is determined by a committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament.

In the past 120 years, the Nobel Prizes have had a rich history; but they certainly had their fair share of ups and downs too. That includes some incredible events.

Marie Curie

For instance, Marie Curie made history when she became the ONLY person to be awarded a Nobel in two different sciences! She received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for work in radioactivity; She then received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911 for isolation of pure Radium. Not only that, she was also the first woman to receive a Nobel. Another astonishing fact is that the Curie family is one of the most famous families when it comes to these awards. Marie’s husband, Pierre Curie, shared the 1903 Physics prize with her. Her daughter, Irène Joliot Curie shared the 1935 Chemistry prize with her husband, Frédéric Joliot Curie.

Moreover, the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize is Malala Yousafzai who was 17 at the time she received the 2014 Peace Prize. Only two organisations have received the Nobel more than once; the International Committee of the Red Cross received the award thrice, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has received it twice. Also, Rabindranath Tagore received the 1913 Literature Prize, making him the first Indian to receive a Nobel Prize.

There have also been cases of people refusing the prize, which might seem odd to us, but here’s what they said. Jean Paul Sartre declined the Literature Prize in 1964 saying, “ A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honourable form.”

Lê Duc Tho also declined the 1973 Peace prize, for his work in the Paris Accords, saying that there was actually no peace in Vietnam, thus, making it inappropriate for him to accept the prize.

Such stories never fail to amaze us and we hope for more wondrous achievements in the future to further fuel the Nobel tradition to serve humanity just like Alfred Nobel always wanted.

11 Comments Add yours

    1. thankyou very much!


  1. kaivalyasharma says:

    Engaging and Informative!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Quite informative. Great job.👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lukshita says:

    Wow ! Great piece

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Harish says:

    So informative…Nobel prizes for long have been regarded as the most prestigious, considering their fair selection criterion. Hopefully mankind sees many more breakthrough discoveries that would benefit the society

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou very much!


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