Nobel Prize Established
On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace - the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace were first awarded in 1901.
The Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, while the other prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Prize is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; the Swedish Academy grants the Nobel Prize in Literature; and the Nobel Peace Prize is not awarded by a Swedish organisation but by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Each recipient, or laureate, receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money which is decided by Nobel Foundation yearly. As of 2012, each prize was worth 8 million SEK (c. US$1.2 million, €0.93 million). The prize is not awarded posthumously; however, if a person is awarded a prize and dies before receiving it, the prize may still be presented. Though the average number of laureates per prize increased substantially during the 20th century, a prize may not be shared among more than three people
Between 1901 and 2012, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 555 times. There have been a few years in which the Nobel Prize was not awarded, particularly during World War I and II. In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: 'If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation's restricted funds.'
839 Laureates and 24 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2012. Of them, 71 are Laureates in Economic Sciences. A small number of individuals and organizations have been honoured more than once, which means that 835 individuals and 21 unique organizations have received the Nobel Prize in total.
Between 1901 and 2012 the Nobel Prize and Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded 44 times to women.
The average age of all Nobel Laureates in all prize categories between 1901 and 2011 is 59 years.
The word 'Laureate' refers to being signified by the laurel wreath.
In Greek mythology, the god Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head. A laureal wreath is a circular crown made of branches and leaves of the bay laurel (In latin: Laurus nobilis). In Ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to victors as a sign of honour - both in athletic competitions and in poetic meets.
Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, into a family of engineers. He was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. In 1894, Nobel purchased the Bofors iron and steel mill, which he made into a major armaments manufacturer. Nobel also invented ballistite, a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially the British smokeless powder cordite. Nobel was even involved in a patent infringement lawsuit over cordite. Nobel amassed a fortune during his lifetime, with most of his wealth from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous.
In 1888, Nobel was astonished to read his own obituary, titled The merchant of death is dead, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred's brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. The article disconcerted Nobel and made him apprehensive about how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will. On 10 December 1896, Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 63 years old.
Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. The last was written over a year before he died, signed at the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895. To widespread astonishment, Nobel's last will specified that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the 'greatest benefit on mankind' in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million SEK (c. US$186 million, €150 million in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes. Because of scepticism surrounding the will, it was not until 26 April 1897 that it was approved by the Storting in Norway. The executors of Nobel's will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel's fortune and organise the award of prizes.
Nobel's instructions named a Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize, the members of whom were appointed shortly after the will was approved in April 1897. Soon thereafter, the other prize-awarding organisations were designated or established. These were the Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June. The Nobel Foundation reached an agreement on guidelines for how the prizes should be awarded; and, in 1900, the Nobel Foundation's newly created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II. In 1905, the personal union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Thereafter, Norway's Nobel Committee was responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and the Swedish institutions retained responsibility for the other prizes.