Nobel Prizes

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Nobel Prizes


annual international prizes named in honor of their founder, the Swedish chemical engineer Alfred Bernhard Nobel.

In his will Nobel stipulated that his fortune was to be used to create the Nobel fund, originally totaling 31 million Swedish krona. The capital was to be invested in stocks, bonds, and loans, and the income derived was to be divided annually into five equal parts and awarded as prizes for work in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature and for promoting peace. In 1968, the Swedish central bank, to commemorate its 300th anniversary, established an annual prize in economics in memory of Nobel; the cash prize is equal to the other five and is awarded on the same basis.

The Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal bearing Nobel’s profile and an inscription, a diploma, and a check for the prize amount, which depends on the earnings of the Nobel fund. The prizes generally range from $30,000 to $70,000.

Under Nobel’s will, the awarding of Nobel Prizes is entrusted to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm (physics, chemistry, and the memorial prize in economics); the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute in Stockholm (physiology or medicine); the Swedish Academy in Stockholm (literature); and the Norwegian Nobel Committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament (peace).

Nobel Prizes are awarded without regard to race, nationality, sex, or religion for the most recent achievements in the fields mentioned above and for earlier work if its significance becomes apparent later. With the exception of the peace prize, all the prizes are awarded only to individuals and only once. As an exception the Nobel Prize was awarded twice to M. Sktodowska-Curie (1903 and 1911), L. Pauling (1954 and 1962), and J. Bardeen (1956 and 1972). Nobel Prizes are generally not awarded posthumously.

Only individuals (not organizations) have the right to propose candidates for the Nobel Prize. The Nobel statutes specify those persons who may nominate candidates for each Nobel Prize, for example, previous winners. In physics, chemistry, economics, and physiology or medicine, candidates are nominated by competent persons in various countries (six persons for each branch of learning). Each year the Royal Academy of Sciences and the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute secretly select the persons who will nominate the candidates for the next year. The nominations must be submitted to the appropriate six Nobel committees before February 1 (for prizes in physics, chemistry, and economics, to committees of the Royal Academy of Sciences; for the prize in physiology or medicine, to a committee of the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute; and for the peace prize, to a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament).

Discussions on the submitted work and voting are conducted in secrecy; differences of opinion are not recorded in the minutes of the meetings. Published statements contain only the decision and a brief summary of the reasons for awarding the prize (reasons are not given for the peace prize). Decisions to award a prize cannot be appealed or revoked.

Nobel Prize ceremonies take place in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death, also called Nobel’s Day, an official flag-raising day in Sweden. Traditionally, the king of Sweden presents the gold medals to the Nobel Prize winners in Stockholm, and the king of Norway attends the ceremony in Oslo. Under the statutes, a prize winner is required to give a lecture on his work, usually in Stockholm or Oslo, within six months of receiving the prize.

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, and 311 Nobel Prizes were awarded between 1901 and 1973. Among the Nobel Prize winners in physics were the eminent scientists W. Roentgen (1901), M. Planck (1918), A. Einstein (1921), N. Bohr (1922), P. Dirac and E. Schrödinger (1933), and E. Fermi (1938). Laureates of the chemistry award include E. Rutherford (1908), V. Grignard (1912), I. Langmuir (1932), F. and I. Joliot-Curie (1935), P. Debye (1936), C. Hinshelwood (1956), J. Heyrovsky (1959), and G. Natta and K. Ziegler (1963). Prizes in physiology or medicine have been awarded to I. P. Pavlov (1904), P. Koch (1905), E. Metchnikoff (1908), K. Landsteiner (1930), A. Fleming (1945), F. Crick and J. Watson (1962), and K. Lorenz and N. Tinbergen (1973). Recipients of the literature prize include R. Tagore (1913), R. Rolland (1915), A. France (1921), B. Shaw (1925), T. Mann (1929), J. Galsworthy (1932), I. A. Bunin (1933), E. Hemingway (1954), A. Camus (1957), and P. Neruda (1971). Among the peace prize winners are F. Nansen (1922), A. Schweitzer (1952), and M. Luther King (1964).

A number of outstanding Soviet scientists have received the Nobel Prize: N. N. Semenov (chemistry, 1956), P. A. Cherenkov, I. M. Frank, and I. E. Tamm (physics, 1956), L. D. Landau (physics, 1962), and N. G. Basov and A. M. Prokhorov (physics, 1964). The soviet writer M. A. Sholokhov was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965.


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