The Nobel Prizes (pronounced no-BELL or no-bell) are awarded annually to people who have done outstanding research, invented groundbreaking techniques or equipment, or made outstanding contributions to society. It is generally regarded as the supreme commendation in the world today. The prizes were instituted by the final will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite. He signed his will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on November 27, 1895. He was shocked to see how his invention was used for destructive purposes and wanted the prizes to be awarded to those who served mankind well.
About the Prizes
The first ceremony to award the Nobel Prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, and medicine was held at the Old Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1901; since 1902, the prizes have been formally awarded by the King of Sweden. King Oscar II did not initially approve of awarding grand national prizes to foreigners, but is said to have changed his mind after realizing the publicity value of the prizes for the country.
The Prizes are awarded at a formal ceremony held annually on December 10, the date that Alfred Nobel passed away. However, the names of the laureates are typically announced in October by the different committees and institutions that serve as selection boards for the prizes.
A large monetary award is included with the Nobel Prizes, currently about 10 million Swedish Kronor (slightly more than one million Euros or about 1.3 million US dollars). This was originally intended to allow laureates to continue working or researching without the pressures of raising money. (In actual fact, many prize winners have retired before winning, and many Literature winners have been silenced by it, even if younger.)
The Nobel Prize may only be awarded to living persons; it may not be awarded posthumously, which has sometimes sparked criticism that someone deserving of a Nobel Prize never received the prize because he or she died before being nominated for it.
It should be noted that the expression "nominated for a Nobel Prize," when used to establish someone's credentials or expertise in a certain field, is an essentially meaningless expression. Anyone can nominate anyone else for a Nobel Prize.
Prizes have been awarded annually since 1901 for achievements in:
- Physics (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
- Chemistry (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
- Physiology or Medicine (decided by the Karolinska Institute)
- Literature (decided by the Swedish Academy)
- Peace (decided by a committee appointed by the Norwegian Storting)
After Nobel's death it turned out that he had not asked any of the deciding bodies whether they would accept the responsibility; they decided to do so after quite a lot of hesitation.
- Economics (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Since this prize has no foundation in Nobel's will, and is not paid by his money, it is technically not a Nobel prize (and the present Nobel family does not accept it as such). It is however awarded together with the other Nobel prizes.
In 1968, the decision was made not to add any more prizes "in memory of Nobel" in the future. In February of 1995, it was decided that the economics prize be essentially defined as a prize in social sciences, opening the Nobel Prize to great contributions in fields like political science, psychology, and sociology. Also, the economics prize committee was changed to require two non-economists to decide the prize each year, whereas previously the prize committee had consisted of five economists.
Some fields without a Nobel prize have instituted prizes of their own which are not as well-known: the Polar Music Prize, the Fields Medal in mathematics; also the Abel Prize in mathematics, presented by the King of Norway, the Pritzker Prize in architecture, the Turing Award in computing, the Wollaston Medal in geology, the Templeton Prize in religion, the Schock Prizes in logic and philosophy, mathematics, visual arts and musical arts.
In a sense the prizes announced recently by the World Technology Network are an indirect continuation of the wishes of Alfred Nobel, as he set them out in his testament. In this short one page document he stipulated that the money should go to discoveries or inventions in the physical sciences and to discoveries or improvements in chemistry. He had opened the door to technological awards, but he had not left instructions on how to do the split between science and technology. Since the deciding bodies in these domains were more concerned with Science than technology it is not surprising that the prizes went to scientists and not to engineers, technicians or other inventors.
The Kyoto Prizes are awarded in three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy. The Millennium Technology Prize is an international award for outstanding technological achievements. The Right Livelihood Awards (also known as "Alternative Nobel Prizes") are awarded to persons who have made important contributions in areas such as environmental protection, peace, human rights, health etc. In 2002 the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children and youth literature, was instituted in honour of Swedish children's book author Astrid Lindgren. The humorous Ig Nobel Prize is a parody which annually honors research "that cannot or should not be repeated".
- List of prizes, medals, and awards
- The Nobel e-Museum - Official site
- The Nobel Foundation - Official site
- The Nobel Committees of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- The Nobel Committee of the Karolinska Institute
- The Swedish Academy
- The Norwegian Nobel Committee
- The Nobel Prize Internet Archive - an unofficial site
- Timeline of Nobel Winners