Interesting Nobel Prize facts


The Nobel Prize Medal. Photo: Alexander Mahmoud 2018. See the Nobel Award Site

The Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious prize in the world. This prize is given in the 6 fields – Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economics, and Peace. The prize amount varies, but is usually about $1 million.

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 21, 1833. He is known for inventing dynamite. Nobel held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous. The synthetic element nobelium was named after him.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences selects the Nobel Laureate in Physics and Chemistry, Karolinska Institute selects Nobel Laureate in the field of Physiology or Medicine, the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize selects Nobel Laureate in Literature, and a Committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Parliament selects for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1968, the Sveriges Riksbank established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was given the task to select the Laureates in Economic Sciences starting in 1969.

Last year (2018) there was a scandal in the Swedish Academy, which selects the Nobel Prize for Literature. The scandal encompassed sexual harassment, leaking of prize winners, improper use of funds, and corruption. So many members of the Academy stepped back in protest that there were not enough members left to elect new members. According to the then statutes, members were unable to leave their seats, so there was a bit of a mess. It ended up with the husband of a member being imprisoned, a former standing secretary of the Swedish Academy being forced to leave the Nobel Committee, and no Nobel Prize for literature being awarded in 2018. Instead, there will be two awards for literature in 2019.

Personally, I think what went on in the Swedish Academy was absolutely disgraceful. So-called cultural geniuses are given such power and latitude to behave like pigs, and don’t seem to mind using it to take advantage of women. Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson leaked the prize winners at least seven times, used Academy money for his own foundation, and was accused of the sexual assault of around 20 women (even, it is rumoured, the Crown Princess of Sweden). Things were so bad that when he appealed his prison sentence for two rapes, he was given an even longer sentence. People knew about this for years, but he was so powerful that no one said anything, and he was protected by his powerful male friends – à la Harvey Weinstein.

On a more cheeful note – here are some interesting Nobel Prize facts:

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was nominated five times but never won the Nobel Prize.
  • The average age of all Nobel Laureates in all prize categories between 1901 and 2017 is 60 years
  • The youngest Peace Prize laureate is Malala Yousafzai, who won in 2014 at the age of just 17 years.John B. Goodenough is the oldest recipient of this prize in Chemistry 2019 at the age of 97 years.
  • John Bardeen is the only Nobel Laureate who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics twice, in 1956 and 1972.
  • Marie Curie is the only one woman who has been honoured twice, with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • Frederick Sanger is the only Nobel Laureate who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice, in 1958 and 1980.
  • The first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901 to Henry Dunant (Switzerland) and Frédéric Passy (France).
  • The Peace Prize is the only prize that is not presented in Stockholm. This prize is presented annually in Oslo, in the presence of the King of Norway, on December 10, the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel. One of the reasons for the Peace prize being awarded in Norway could be because Norway was in union with Sweden until 1905. Or because the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) was interested in the peaceful solution of international disputes in the 1890s.
  • The Nobel Prize has not been awarded 49 times – due to the world wars and also when the work being considered was not found to be of sufficient importance.
  • Two laureates turned down the prize – Jean-Paul Satre and Le Duc Tho.
  • Several winners were forced to turn down the prize – three by Adolf Hitler and one by the Soviet Union. And three were under arrest at the time they won the prize.
  • Only two prizes were awarded posthumously. After 1974 the rules were changed so that you could only receive a posthumous award if you died after the announcement.

And, a rather strange thing I saw in Stockholm a few weeks ago. Nobel Prize perfume. Not sure that sounds like a very appealing smell, and I don’t think it is officially sanctioned (the Nobel Foundation is pretty strict), but it seemed very popular in the shop!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

Leave a Reply