Nobel Prize : A Brief Explanation .

Introduction :

The  Nobel prize, the greatest award in the present time or maybe in history , is awarded in 6 different fields: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology, Literature and Peace. The 6th field was included in the 1969 in economics. The prize is awarded to the ”those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. The prize was named after the Alfred Nobel inventor of Dynamite who founded the Nobel prize and gave all his remaining assets to establish the Nobel Prize. 

Alfred Nobel : The Founder of the Nobel Prize. 

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. He was the third son of Immanuel Nobel (1801–1872), an inventor and engineer,and Karolina Andriette (Ahlsell) Nobel (1805–1889). The family was poor so out of eight children Alfred and his 3 brothers survived beyond childhood. He was very much interested in engineering, particularly explosives at an early age. 

Due to failure in the businesses the Immanuel Nobel moved to Saint Petersburg 1837. In Saint Petersburg he growed a successful business of manufacturing machine tools and explosives like Gunpowder. In 1942 the family joined him. Now the family is prosperous, they can afford the private tutor for Alfred Nobel. Alfred Nobel quickly mastered chemistry and achieved fluency in English, French,German and Russian. He already knew his native language, Swedish. His primary interests were in English literature and poetry as well as chemistry and  physics. But his father wanted him to join his business. Hence, he disliked his interest in poetry and literature. 

As a young man he studied with chemist Nikolai Zinin then he moved to Paris for further work in 1950. In Paris he met Ascanio Sobrero who invented nitroglycerin. Ascanio Sobrero strongly opposed the use of nitroglycerin as it was very unstable and explodes anywhere at variable heat or pressure. But Alfred Nobel became interested in finding a way to control the  nitroglycerin.


In 1851 at the age of 18 he went to the United States for one year of study. He filed his first patent “gas meter” in 1857 working under the Swedish-American inventor John Ericsson. His first Swedish patent which he received in 1863 was “the ways to prepare gunpowder”.

During the Crimean War (1853–1856), the Immanuel Nobel’s factory produced armaments for the war. After the end of the war the company had difficulty in switching back to regular domestic production. Hence, they filed for bankruptcy.

In 1959 Nobel’s father left the factory in the care of second son Ludvig Nobel who greatly improved the business. Nobel returned to Sweden with his parents from Russia. In Sweden he devoted his life to the study of explosives, especially to the study of nitroglycerin. Nobel invented a detonator in 1863, and in 1865 designed the blasting cap.

On 3 September 1864, nitroglycerin exploded in the Nobel’s in Helensburgh, Stockholm, Sweden, which killed 5 people including Nobel’s younger brother Emil. After that Nobel founded the company Nitroglycerin Aktiebolaget AB in Vinterviken in a more isolated area. 

To make nitroglycerin stable and safer, he experimented with different additives. In 1867, he soon found that the addition of kieselguhr (porous siliceous earth) with nitroglycerin made it much more stable. He named this mixture Dynamite. Dynamite was patented in the US and the UK and was used extensively in mining and the building of transport networks internationally. Consequently, In 1875 he invented gelignite and in 1887 he invented ballistite. He invented the dynamite for the positive use like mining, in construction of roads, etc but the politicians started using dynamite in wars.

Intensive work and travel did not leave much time for a private life. Hence, He didn’t married. At the age of 43 he was feeling like an old man and wanted a lady as the supervisor of the household. The most qualified woman turned out to be Austrian Countess Bertha Kinsky. She worked for Nobel for a short period of time. After that she decided to return to Austria to marry Count Arthur von Suttner. In spite of this Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner remained friends and kept writing letters to each other for decades. It was believed that She was the reason that the Nobel included the Peace Prize. She wrote a famous book, Lay Down Your Arms and became a prominent figure in the peace movement. For her work she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 1906.

Countess Bertha Kinsky (Image Credit:Wikimedia Commons)

In 1884 he was elected as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1893 he received an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University. On the other hand his brothers Ludving and Robert founded an oil company. He became hugely rich in his own right. Alfred invested in his brother’s company and amassed great wealth through the development of these new oil regions. 

Robert Nobel & Ludvig Nobel (Image Credit:Wikimedia Commons)

On 10 December 1896, Alfred Nobel died due to the stock.  He had left most of his wealth in trust, unbeknownst to his family, in order to fund the Nobel Prize awards. At the time of his death, Nobel had 355 patents internationally and his company established more than 90 armament factories in spite of his apparently pacifist character. 

Opening Nobel’s Will :

He died in his villa in San Remo, Italy in 1896. At his death he was owner of the 90 manufacturing companies Worldwide. He wrote his will on 27 November, 1895 in Paris and deposited it into the bank Stockholm. His will was a surprise for his family, friends, and the general public. He has always been generous in humanitarian and scientific philanthropies. In his will, he wrote to establish nobel prizes and donated all his fortune to the trust. 

He never wrote why he donated all his money to established Nobel Prizes. We can only postulate his decision to donate all his fortune. 

The most possible theory is that of a bizarre incident of his brother’s Ludvig’s death. In 1888 his brother living in Cannes,France died. The newspaper gets confused between Alfred and Ludvig. One of the newspapers added the headline “Le marchand de la mort est mort” (“The merchant of death is dead.”). The newspaper also said, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Nobel doesn’t want people to remember him as this. Hence, he established the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. So that people should remember his real legacy, not that of a killer. 

The Fields In Which Nobel Prizes are Given :

The 4 Fields in which Nobel Prizes are given represent the Nobel’s Interest in those fields.  As we have already mentioned he was interested in Literature, Physics,Chemistry and Medicine. The reason for the inclusion of the Nobel Peace Prize is his friend Countess Bertha Kinsk as we mentioned earlier in detail. She also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901.

The Nobel prize in economics is not according to Alfred’s will. It was included in 1968 by a donation from Sweden’s central bank Sveriges Riksbank to the Nobel Foundation to celebrate the bank’s 300th anniversary.  It is administered and referred to along with Nobel Prizes by the Nobel Foundation. It was first awarded in 1969 to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen. Till now this is the only nobel prize to be awarded every year. 

Nobel Foundation :

Alfred Nobel has given the responsibility to execute his will  to Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist. They founded the Nobel Foundation on 29 June 1900 to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes. The Nobel foundation is a private organization. At the time of Foundation the assets left by Nobel Alfred was 31 million Swedish kronor. As of 31 December 2020, the assets controlled by the Nobel Foundation amounted to 5.176 billion Swedish kronor.

The main task of the Nobel Foundation is to manage the fortunes left by Nobel and to represent the Nobel Prizes at international level. They do not play any role in the selection process of Nobel Laureates.

The foundation’s headquarter, the board is located at Stockholm, Sweden. It consists of seven members and two deputies who are either Swedish or Norwegian. The members are elected by the trustees of the four Nobel Prize-awarding institutions: the Karolinska Institute, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Swedish Academy. At time of establishment of the Nobel Foundation, Norway and Sweden were one country but in 1905 the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved and Norway’s Nobel Committee became the awarder of the Peace Prize while Sweden became the awarder of the other prizes.

Criteria :

The Nobel Prizes Winners are declared in October and November and the Prizes are awarded on 10 December at the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel. The selection process begins in the early autumn of the preceding year, when the prize-awarding institutions invite more than 6,000 individuals to propose, or nominate, candidates for the prizes. Self-nominations defaultly disqualify the Nominee. 

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, a nomination is considered valid if it is submitted by a person who falls within one of the following categories:

  • Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of states
  • Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague
  • Members of l’Institut de Droit International
  • Members of the international board of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  • University professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents); directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes
  • Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (proposals by current members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after 1 February)
  • Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Unless otherwise stated the term members shall be understood as current (sitting) members.

The nomination proposal must be submitted to the Nobel committee before or on the 31 January of the award year.  Six Nobel committees, each for one category, start their work on nominations received. The committee takes the help from outside consultants in order to determine the originality and significance of each nominee’s contribution. 

The committee completes their work during September and early October and submits their nominations to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the other prize-awarding institutions. The committee recommendations are usually followed but not invariably followed. The discussion and voting within these institutions are secret at all stages. The final decision must be made on 15th November of the award year.

The Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry,medicine, literature and economics are not to be shared among more than three individuals, although the Nobel Peace Prize can be awarded to organizations of more than three people. In other words the Nobel Prize in peace can be given to more than people or to organizations but other Nobel prizes can not be given to more than three people. 

Nobel prizes are not given posthumously (to the dead person) but if a person is awarded a prize and dies before receiving it, the prize is presented. The nobel prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine are typically awarded once the achievement has been widely accepted. The Literature Prize is typically awarded to recognise a cumulative lifetime body of work rather than a single achievement.

Nobel Prize :

Award Ceremony :

The Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden, at the annual Prize Award Ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel’s death except the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize is presented at a Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, usually on 10 December. The King of Sweden gave the Nobel Prize to the winners in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics. The Peace prize is given by the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the presence of the King of Norway and the Norwegian royal family.

Banquet :

After the award ceremony, 1,300 guests attend the banquet including the Swedish royal family in the Blue Hall at the Stockholm City Hall. The banquet for the peace prize was held in Norway at the Oslo Grand Hotel after the award ceremony. The King, Queen and the President of Norway attend these banque.

Nobel Lecture :

According to the Nobel Foundation, the Nobel Laureates are required to give a public lecture on the subject related to the topic of their prize.

Medals :

The Nobel medal presents the face of Alfred Nobel on the left side of the medal. The Nobel portraits also appear on the medal of economics and peace but with slight change. The other side of the medal varies with the categories. The reverse side of physics and chemistry medals share a common design. 

The medal is 18 karats green gold plated with 24 karats (pure) gold, weighing around 175 grams. The diameter is 66 millimetres and the thickness varies between 5.2 millimetres and 2.4 millimetres.

Diplomas :

OSLO, NORWAY – DECEMBER 10: Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, the South African President, receive the Nobel Peace Prize at City Hall in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1993. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Nobel laureates receive a diploma from the hands of the king of Sweden and in case of peace prize they receive a diploma from the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Each diploma is made by different prize awarding  institutions. The diploma contains the name and picture of the Nobel laureates in swedish. The Nobel Peace Prize laureates have ever had a citation on their diplomas.

Prize Money :

Swedish Kronor

At the time of the ceremony Laureates are given the document confirming the prize money. The cash prize is 8 million SEK (about US$1.1 million or €1.16 million). When two laureates share the prize in the same category then prize money is divided equally. If there are three, the awarding committee has the option of dividing the grant equally, or awarding one-half to one recipient and one-quarter to each of the others.

Some Facts :

  • The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in Physics,  Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff in chemistry, Sully Prudhomme in literature and Henri Dunant and Frédéric Passy for peace.  There was no Nobel Prize in Economics at that time.
  • The first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Ragnar Frisch in 1969.
  • Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Laureate at the age of 16 and the John B. Goodenough is the oldest Nobel laureate at the age of 97.
  • John Bardeen, Marie Curie, Linus Pauling, and Frederick Sanger are the only four persons to have won the Nobel Prize Twice. 
  • Rabindranath Tagore( Rabindranath Thakur) is the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize.  He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1911 in literature. 
  • The first Asian to win the Nobel prize in the sciences category is C.V Raman. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930.
  • The First Asian Nobel laureate for peace was Lê Đức Thọ in 1973. He belongs to Vietnam. 
  • Amartya Sen is the first Asian Nobel laureate in economics. He was awarded the medal in 1998.

Twice Nobel Laureates :

Marie Curie :

Marie Curie was the first person to achieve this goal of winning the Nobel prize twice. She was awarded the first prize along with her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel for the discovery of radioactivity in 1903. She was awarded the second prize for the discovery of Polonium and Radium and investigating their properties in 1911.

Linus Pauling :

Image Credit:Wikimedia Commons

Linus Pauling is the only person to win two Nobel prizes without sharing it with others. He was awarded first Nobel Prize in 1954 in Chemistry, for his recognized research into the nature of Chemical bonding. He was awarded the second Nobel Prize in 1962, his militant pacifism during the Cold War, focused primarily on combating nuclear weapons, earned him the Second Nobel Peace Prize.

John Bardeen :

Image Credit:Wikimedia

John Barden is the only scientist to receive two Nobel Prizes in the physics category.  He was awarded the first Nobel Prize in 1956 for the invention of the transistor, along with William B. Shockley. He was awarded second Nobel Prize in 1972 with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.

Frederick Sanger :

Frederick Sanger is the only scientist to receive two Nobel Prizes in the chemistry category. He was awarded a Nobel prize in 1958, for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin. He was awarded second Nobel prize in 1980 along with Walter Gilbert for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids.

Indian Nobel Laureates :

Rabindranath Tagore :

Rabindranath Tagore( Rabindranath Thakur) is the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize.  He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1911 in literature. He won the Nobel prize for “his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”.

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman :

The first Asian to win the Nobel prize in the science category is C.V Raman. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930. He is the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize “for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him”

Mother Teresa :

She was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1979. She was the first woman with close Indian ties to get the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. While she was born in Macedonia (then Ottoman Empire’s Uskup) to parents of Albanian descent, she was sent to Calcutta to be a teacher after she entered a nunnery. She won the Nobel prize “for In recognition of [her] work in bringing help to suffering humanity”

Amartya Sen :

Amartya Sen is the first Asian Nobel laureate in economics. He was awarded the medal in 1998. He won the Nobel prize     “For his contributions to welfare economics”.

Kailash Satyarthi :

Kailash satyarthi was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2014. He shared the award with Malala Yousafzai in 2014. He won the Nobel prize     “For their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. In 1980, he left teaching and founded ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, an organisation that worked towards freeing children from slave-like conditions.

Overseas citizens of India : The following are the Nobel laureates of Indian origin who were born in India but subsequently non-citizens of India.

Har Gobind Khorana :

He is the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968 along with Robert W Holley and Marshall W Nirenberg “for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis”.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar :

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was an Indian American astrophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983 in Physics. He shared the award with another physicist William Alfred Fowler. He won the Nobel prize for     “For his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars”. 

Venki Ramakrishnan :

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (born 1952) is an Indian-born British-American structural biologist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009 in chemistry categories. He won the Nobel prize “For Structure and function of the ribosome,macromolecular crystallography”. He shared the award with Thomas A Steitz and Ada E Yonath.

Abhijit Banerjee :

Abhijit Banerjee is an India-born naturalized American economist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize  along with his wife, Esther Duflo, and another US-based economist, Michael Kremer in 2019. He won the Nobel prize “For their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.

Indian Nobel Laureates of foreign origin. They are either born in India or received the prize while staying in India. 

Ronald Ross :

Ronald Ross was a British medical doctor who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902. He won the Nobel prize “For his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it”. He was born 13 May 1857 Almora, North-Western Provinces, India.

Rudyard Kipling :

He was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1907 in literature.  He won the Nobel prize for     “In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”. He was born on 30 December 1865

Malabar Hill, Bombay Presidency, British India which inspired much of his work.

Dalai Lama :

The 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1989. He won the Nobel prize for “For his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people’s struggle to regain their liberty”. He won the Nobel prize while staying in India. 

Which Field Should Be Added :

As earlier, we have explained that the prize in economics was added by donations from the bank in 1969. So other field can do the same 

IT Sector :

In today’s world where everyone is using the internet, social media, etc. So the Nobel Prize should be included in this field in order to make the privacy of the users secure.  There are many cases of violence, fraud etc. Hence, if someone comes with such technology to stop such things then he should be awarded the Nobel prize. 

Journalism :

As we all know, the media (press) is the fourth pillar of any democracy.  But there are also biased media houses and some are under pressure. There is pressure for freedom in China. The situation in many democratic countries is the same. The press freedom index had fallen in Turkey and Russia.  Even in our country the press freedom is not good. So in order to make the media unbiased Nobel prize can be included in the fields of Journalism. 

Mathematics :

Science, Math, Chemistry Equations

As we mentioned above, the categories in which Nobel prizes are awarded.  But if you think almost all sciences that are physics, chemistry, economics and medicine somehow use the concept of mathematics. Yet, there is not a Nobel prize in mathematics.  So the Nobel prize should be included in mathematics. 

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