The Nobel Prize is internationally recognized as one of the highest achievements in intellectual excellence. Established by Alfred Nobel in 1895, the annual prize is divided into five key categories: physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature and peace. Over the years the prize has been awarded to some of society’s most outstanding individuals including Marie and Pierre Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Rudyard Kipling, Otto Wallach, Albrecht Kossel, Albert Einstein, Henri Bergson, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King Jr., Seamus Heaney and Sir Henry Dale, to name just a few. The topics of literature and peace have often been the subject of fierce debate, given how open these fields are for subjective interpretation. We take a closer look at some key facts about the Nobel Prize to find out more.
The Prize Was Established by Alfred Nobel
The founder of the Nobel Prize was the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel, who had made his fortune as an inventor of explosives and ammunition, with factories throughout Europe. Throughout his life he was a generous philanthropist, and in the final year of his life in 1895, he drew up a will bequeathing his vast fortune to the Nobel Prize Foundation. Following his death in 1896, the Nobel Prize was established. The first official awards ceremony then took place in 1901, on the 5th anniversary of the benefactor’s death. No one knows why he chose to set up the foundation and award in his name, but some believe he might have done so in order to create a more positive association with his name, given how closely he had been involved with explosives used for warfare.
The Award is Presented by the Nobel Foundation
Today the Nobel Prize Awards are presented to winners from the Nobel Foundation, a private company established in 1900. The foundation has headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, and has links with four leading institutions who are responsible for selecting the prize winners: the Karolinska Institute, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, The Swedish Academy and the Norwegian Nobel Committee. These institutions invite around 6,000 individuals to nominate an individual or group who have been carrying out pioneering work for the prize (self-nominations are not allowed). Choosing the nominees for the prize is a lengthy process that involves a Nobel Prize committee for each category, who often consult with outside experts.
Each Winner Receives a Gold Medal, Diploma and a Sum of Money
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The Nobel Prize itself comprises a gold medal, a diploma/certificate, and a cash prize. The award can only be given to individuals or groups of up to three individuals, but not institutions. If a group wins the award, they are each given an equal share of the prize money. Following their presentation of the award during an official ceremony, prize winners enter into the Nobel Laureates.
Winners are usually asked to give a speech during this awards ceremony which outlines the main achievements that led to the award. Very occasionally winners have refused the award for personal or political reasons, such as Jean-Paul Sartre – although he wasn’t presented with an award or money, his name is still in the Nobel Laureates archive, as listed on the Foundation’s website. Meanwhile others have chosen to donate the prize money into charity or research work.
Many Pioneers Have Won the Nobel Prize
A great many pioneering researchers, writers, activists and academics have been presented with the Nobel Prize. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 following his ground-breaking work towards equality during the American Civil Right movement. Meanwhile Marie Curie won two prizes for both Physics (in 1903, along with her husband Pierre) and Chemistry (in 1911) for discovering the chemical compounds radium and polonium, Albert Einstein won the prize for Physics in relation to his work on the photoelectric effect in 1922, and Ernest Hemingway was presented with the prize for literature in 1954 for his mastery of “the art of modern narration.”