- Nobel prize
any of various awards made annually, beginning in 1901, from funds originally established by Alfred B. Nobel for outstanding achievement in physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature, and the promotion of peace; an annual award in economics was established in 1969 from private funds.
* * *Any of the prizes awarded annually by four institutions (three Swedish and one Norwegian) from a fund established under the will of Alfred B. Nobel.The will specified that awards should be given "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." Since 1901, prizes have been awarded for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace; since 1969, a sixth prize, established by the Bank of Sweden, has been awarded in economic sciences. The Nobel Prizes are regarded as the most prestigious prizes in the world.
* * *▪ awardIntroductionany of the prizes (five in number until 1969, when a sixth was added) that are awarded annually from a fund bequeathed for that purpose by the Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Bernhard Nobel (Nobel, Alfred Bernhard). The Nobel Prizes are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards given for intellectual achievement in the world. To browse Nobel Prize winners alphabetically, chronologically, and by prize, see below.In the will he drafted in 1895, Nobel instructed that most of his fortune be set aside as a fund for the awarding of five annual prizes “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” These prizes as established by his will are the Nobel Prize for physics, the Nobel Prize for chemistry, the Nobel Prize for physiology or Medicine (medicine, history of), the Nobel Prize for literature, and the Nobel Prize for Peace. The first distribution of the prizes took place on Dec. 10, 1901, the fifth anniversary of Nobel's death. An additional award, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic (economics) Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden and was first awarded in 1969. Although not technically a Nobel Prize, it is identified with the award; its winners are announced with the Nobel Prize recipients, and the Prize in Economic Sciences is presented at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.After Nobel's death, the Nobel Foundation was set up to carry out the provisions of his will (Nobel's will) and to administer his funds. In his will, he had stipulated that four different institutions—three Swedish and one Norwegian—should award the prizes. From Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences confers the prizes for physics, chemistry, and economics, the Karolinska Institute confers the prize for physiology or medicine, and the Swedish Academy confers the prize for literature. The Norwegian Nobel Committee based in Oslo confers the prize for peace. The Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and functional administrator of the funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize-awarding institutions, but it is not concerned with the prize deliberations or decisions, which rest exclusively with the four institutions.The selection processThe prestige of the Nobel Prize stems in part from the considerable research that goes into the selection of the prizewinners. Although the winners are announced in October and November, the selection process begins in the early autumn of the preceding year, when the prize-awarding institutions invite more than 6,000 individuals to propose, or nominate, candidates for the prizes. Some 1,000 people submit nominations for each prize, and the number of nominees usually ranges from 100 to about 250. Among those nominating are Nobel laureates, members of the prize-awarding institutions themselves; scholars active in the fields of physics, chemistry, economics, and physiology or medicine; and officials and members of diverse universities and learned academies. The respondents must supply a written proposal that details their candidates' worthiness. Self-nomination automatically disqualifies the nominee. Prize proposals must be submitted to the Nobel Committees on or before January 31 of the award year.On February 1, the six Nobel Committees—one for each prize category—start their work on the nominations received. Outside experts are frequently consulted during the process in order to help the committees determine the originality and significance of each nominee's contribution. During September and early October the Nobel Committees have accomplished their work and submit their recommendations to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the other prize-awarding institutions. A committee's recommendation is usually but not invariably followed. The deliberations and the voting within these institutions are secret at all stages. The final decision by the awarders must be made by November 15. Prizes may be given only to individuals, except the Peace Prize, which may also be conferred upon an institution. An individual may not be nominated posthumously, but a prize proposed for a person who was alive when nominated may be awarded posthumously, as with Dag Hammarskjöld (for peace; 1961) and Erik A. Karlfeldt (for literature; 1931). The awards may not be appealed. Official support, whether diplomatic or political, for a certain candidate has no bearing on the award process because the prize awarders, as such, are independent of the state.The prizesEach Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money, the amount of which depends on the income of the Nobel Foundation. (A sum of $1,300,000 accompanied each prize in 2005.) A Nobel Prize is either given entirely to one person, divided equally between two persons, or shared by three persons. In the latter case, each of the three persons can receive a one-third share of the prize or two together can receive a one-half share. Sometimes a prize is withheld until the following year; if not then awarded it is paid back into the funds, which happens also when a prize is neither awarded nor reserved. Two prizes in the same field—i.e., the prize withheld from the previous year and the current year's prize—can thus be awarded in one year. If a prize is declined or not accepted before a set date, the prize money goes back into the funds. Some prizes have been declined by their winners, and in certain instances governments have refused to allow their citizens to accept them. Those who win a prize are nevertheless entered into the list of Nobel laureates with the remark “declined the prize.” Motives for nonacceptance may vary, but most often the reason has been external pressure; for example, in 1937 Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf) forbade Germans in the future from accepting Nobel Prizes because he had been infuriated by the award of the 1935 Peace Prize to the anti-Nazi journalist Carl von Ossietzky (Ossietzky, Carl von), who at the time was a political prisoner in Germany. In some cases, the refuser later explained the real reason behind the refusal and was granted the Nobel gold medal and the diploma—but not the money, which invariably reverts to the funds after a certain period of time.Prizes are withheld or not awarded when no worthy candidate in the meaning of Nobel's will can be found or when the world situation prevents the gathering of information required to reach a decision, as happened during World Wars I and II. The prizes are open to all, irrespective of nationality, race, creed, or ideology. They can be awarded more than once to the same recipient. The ceremonial presentations of the awards for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and economics take place in Stockholm; and that for peace takes place in Oslo, on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. The laureates usually receive their prizes in person, and each presents a lecture in connection with the award ceremonies.The general principles governing awards were laid down by Alfred Nobel in his will. In 1900 supplementary rules of interpretation and administration were agreed upon between the executors, representatives of the prize-awarding institutions, and the Nobel family and were confirmed by the king in council. These statutory rules have on the whole remained unchanged but have been somewhat modified in application. For example, Nobel's stipulation that the prizes be awarded for achievements made during “the preceding year” was obviously unworkable in regard to scientists and even writers, the true significance of whose discoveries, research, or writings might not be generally apparent for several years. Nobel's ambiguous stipulation that the literature prize be awarded to the authors of works of an “idealistic tendency” was interpreted strictly in the beginning but has gradually been interpreted more flexibly. The basis for the economics award was scientific—i.e., mathematical or statistical, rather than political or social.The Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine have generally been the least controversial, while those for literature and peace have been, by their very nature, the most exposed to critical differences. The Peace Prize has been the prize most frequently reserved or withheld.List of Nobel Prize winnersNobelists A–ZNobel Prize winners by name Nobel Prize winners by nameThe table provides an alphabetical list of Nobel Prize winners.Nobelists by yearNobel Prize winners by year Nobel Prize winners by yearThe table provides a chronological list of Nobel Prize winners.Nobelists by prizeNobel Prize winners by category (chemistry) Nobel Prize winners by category (chemistry)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.Nobel Prize winners by category (economics) Nobel Prize winners by category (economics)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Economics.Nobel Prize winners by category (literature) Nobel Prize winners by category (literature)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature.Nobel Prize winners by category (peace) Nobel Prize winners by category (peace)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Peace.Nobel Prize winners by category (physics) Nobel Prize winners by category (physics)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics.Physiology or MedicineNobel Prize winners by category (physiology or medicine) Nobel Prize winners by category (physiology or medicine)The table provides a chronological list of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.Additional ReadingSociological studies of the prize, the impact on winners, and the criteria utilized to nominate and evaluate candidates are among the topics addressed in Harriet Zuckerman, Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States (1977, reissued 1996); Carl Gustaf Bernhard, Elisabeth Crawford, and Per Sörbom (eds.), Science, Technology, and Society in the Time of Alfred Nobel (1982), which includes useful information on the early history (to 1930) of the prizes in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine; Kjell Espmark, The Nobel Prize in Literature: A Study of the Criteria Behind the Choices (1991; originally published in Swedish, 1986); Elisabeth Crawford, Nationalism and Internationalism in Science, 1880–1939: Four Studies of the Nobel Population (1992); and Denis Brian, Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995).Les Prix Nobel (annual) prints the Nobel Prize lectures, often in the original language; volumes in the series Nobel Lectures, Including Presentation Speeches and Laureates' Biographies, with separate sets of books for each of the prize categories, translates the lectures into English.Tyler Wasson (ed.), Nobel Prize Winners (1987), and two additional volumes, Nobel Prize Winners, Supplement, 1987–1991, ed. by Paula McGuire (1992), and Nobel Prize Winners, Supplement, 1992–1996, ed. by Clifford Thompson (1997), arranged alphabetically by prizewinner; and Bernard S. Schlessinger and June H. Schlessinger, The Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners, 1901–1995, 3rd ed. (1996), arranged chronologically by prize category, give biographical and bibliographic information on winners in all the prize categories. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries (1993), treats 14 women who either won the prize or were an important part of a prizewinning project. Additional biographical and bibliographic information on the laureates, by category, may be found in the following reference works: Frank N. Magill (ed.), The Nobel Prize Winners: Chemistry, 3 vol. (1990); Laylin K. James (ed.), Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1991 (1993); Bernard S. Katz (ed.), Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences (1989); William Breit and Roger W. Spencer (eds.), Lives of the Laureates: Thirteen Nobel Economists, 3rd ed. (1995); Rado Pribic (ed.), Nobel Laureates in Literature (1990); Frank N. Magill (ed.), The Nobel Prize Winners: Literature, 3 vol. (1987); Tony Gray, Champions of Peace (1976); Irwin Abrams, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates (1988); Frank N. Magill (ed.), The Nobel Prize Winners: Physiology or Medicine, 3 vol. (1991); Daniel M. Fox, Marcia Meldrum, and Ira Rezak (ed.), Nobel Laureates in Medicine or Physiology (1990); Robert L. Weber, Pioneers of Science: Nobel Prize Winners in Physics, 2nd ed. (1988); and Frank N. Magill (ed.), The Nobel Prize Winners: Physics, 3 vol. (1989).
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