Actors yearn for Oscars; athletes crave Olympic gold – but for scientists, writers and champions of world peace, there’s no bigger achievement than a Nobel Prize.
From 1901 till this year, Nobel prizes have been awarded 567 times to 864 Laureates and 25 organisations with the youngest winner being Peace Prize awardee Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan at 17 years. By winning the Peace Nobel at this tender age along with India’s Kailash Satyarthi, Ms. Yousafzai beat the previous record of Lawrence Bragg, who won the Physics Nobel in 1915 at the age of 25.
The Birth of Nobel Prize
On a fine morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel was reading his regular newspaper but was taken by surprise to read his obituary titled “The Merchant of death is dead”. Apparently, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died, and a French newspaper confused him for Alfred. This made him think about how he would be remembered after his death. This incident inspired him to create a will that no one in those times could ever think of.
Alfred Nobel died of cerebral haemorrhage in his villa in San Remo, Italy on 10th December 1896 at the age of 63. He specified that his fortune should be used to create a series of awards for those who start a revolution in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, medicine and peace. His total assets, approximately one hundred eighty-six million US dollars (USD 186 M), was surrounded by a lot of skepticism. It was not until April 1897 that it was approved by Storting-Parliament of Norway. A Nobel Foundation was formed to take care of Nobel’s fortune and organize the awards.
Want to Win a Nobel Prize? Here are the rules.
Firstly, let’s get the basics right: No matter how much you wish to, you can’t nominate yourself for a Nobel Prize—someone else has to do it for you. You must be alive at the time of your nomination. Since the nominations are a hush-hush affair, you’ll likely never know unless you win. There are more than 200 initial nominees for the various awards each year, a number that is narrowed down by a selection committee to a shortlist (usually three to five people or organizations). The nominations are kept secret for 50 years to prevent lobbying on behalf of nominees. According to rules, there can be a maximum of three Laureates in a category every year.
Who are the Judges?
Alfred Nobel had specified which institutions should select the winners in his 1895 will. For the medicine category, he gave the task to Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences got the physics and chemistry awards and the Swedish Academy, which is a different body, got the task of literature prize. He gave the peace prize – the most high-profile trophy of them all – to a panel selected by the Parliament of neighbouring Norway. Strangely, Nobel never really explained his reasoning in the will.
Did You Know?
- The announcement of the Laureate’s name is often made on a Friday in mid-October at the Nobel Institute building, and the award is presented annually on December 10, the day Alfred Nobel died in 1896.
- The Nobel Medals are handmade with careful precision, and in 18 carat green gold plated with 24 carat gold.
- The average age of all Nobel Laureates in all prize categories between 1901 and 2014 is 59 years.
- Two most common birthdays among the Nobel Laureates are May 21 and February 28.
- Since 1901, prizes have not been awarded 50 times, most of them during World War I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945).
- Leonid Hurwicz is the oldest Nobel recipient at the age of 90 for Economics in 2007.
- Till date, 47 women have won the Nobel while two Laureates declined the prize.
- Adolf Hitler forbade three Germans Richard Kuhn, Adolf Butenandt and Gerhard Domagk, from accepting the Nobel Prize.
Nobel Prizes Won By Indians
A total of 11 individuals hailing from India – subject to some conditions – have been awarded Nobel Prizes.
- Rabindranath Tagore – LITERATURE
- C.V.Raman – PHYSICS(RAMAN EFFECT)
- Mother Teresa – PEACE
- Amartya Sen – ECONOMICS
- Kailash Satyarthi – PEACE
People of Indian Origin
- Har Gobind Khorana – MEDICINE
- Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar – PHYSICS
- V. S. Naipaul – LITERATURE
- Venkatraman Ramakrishnan – CHEMISTRY
Thousands of people around the world are eligible to submit nominations for the Nobel Prizes. They include university professors, lawmakers, previous Nobel laureates and the committee members themselves.
The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious awards known to mankind. It includes a medal, a diploma and award money. Each medal has a picture of Alfred Nobel on the obverse with the year of his birth and death engraved. Every medal weighs up to 175 grams and each diploma is exclusively made by the prize-awarding institutions for the laureates.
Did you know that many genuises refused to take the Nobel Prize? Unbelieveable, isn’t it? Read more about it here.