Facts you didn’t know about the Nobel Prize

The winners of Nobel Prizes for Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Peace and Economic Science were announced earlier this month. And, as is often the case, citizens of the world have been blown away by their achievements. But how much do you know about the Nobel Prize?

What is the Nobel Prize?

The Nobel Prize is awarded to individuals for achievements that, in the words of Alfred Nobel himself, “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”.

No, Alfred Nobel wasn’t just some random dude on the street we accosted and interviewed for this blog… He actually floated the idea – all the way back in 1895. In his last will and testament, Nobel instructed that most of his fortune be set aside as a fund for the awarding of five annual prizes – in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology (or Medicine), Literature and Peace. The first prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901.

The award for Economic Sciences was established in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden and was first presented in 1969. It has a rather long-winded name – ‘The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel’. So, technically, it’s not a Nobel Prize; but it may as well be. Recipients of this award are announced at the same time as the Nobel Prize recipients, and they all get to hang out together eating the same horse’s doovers… sorry, hors d’oeuvres.

Interesting facts about the 2018 Nobel Prize / laureates

  • The official ceremony takes place on December 10, 2018. Interestingly, it has been held on December 10 since the award was incepted in 1901 because that date is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.
  • The Physics Prize was awarded to three individuals, one of which was researcher Donna Strickland. This is significant because it has been awarded to only three women in 117 years.
  • The Chemistry Prize was awarded to three recipients, with chemist Frances H Arnold receiving a half share and the other two recipients receiving quarter shares. (I’m not quite sure if the Nobel medal and diploma that the recipients receive will likewise be sliced up into these fractions…)
  • The Physiology or Medicine Prize was awarded to James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo. They demonstrated how inhibiting the immune system’s “brakes” can be used in the treatment of cancer.
  • Nobel Prize winners are called laureates.
  • The awarding of the Prize for Literature has been postponed because of a misconduct scandal within the organisation that decides the winner.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is actually awarded in Oslo, Norway.
  • The prize money for a 1901 Nobel Prize was about 150,000 Swedish Krona (16,500 USD, 12,500 GBP). Of course, that was A LOT of money back then. That’s increased to 10,000,000 Swedish Krona in 2018. That’s 1.1 million USD or 835,000 GBP.

Interesting facts about previous Nobel Prizes / laureates

  • Physics winner Leon Lederman (1988) sold his Nobel to cover medical care expenses.
  • The youngest winner is Malala Yousafzai. She won the Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17.
  • According to 2013 Laureate Randy Schekman, the text for winning speeches must be sent to the Nobel Foundation more than 24 hours in advance to allow for translation into Swedish.
  • There have been some years when the Nobel Prizes have not been awarded – a total number of 49 times. Most of them during World War I and II.

Of course, there are many more interesting facts about the Nobel Prize. Check out the links below to read more!

Read more about this:

The Nobel Prize: Prizes and Laureates

Encyclopedia Britannica: Nobel Prize

Scientific American: 12 Surprising Facts about Nobel Prizes  

BBC News: Nobel Literature Prize: Why this year’s award was postponed