The Nobel Prize medal for
Physics, Chemistry,
Physiology (or Medicine)
and Literature

The Nobel Prizes (pronounced no-BELL) are awarded annually to people who have done outstanding research, invented groundbreaking techniques or equipment or made outstanding contributions to society. It is generally regarded as the supreme commendations in the world today. The prizes were instituted by the final will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite. He signed his will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on November 27, 1895.

The first ceremony to award the Nobel Prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, and medicine was held at the Old Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1901; since 1902, the prizes have been formally awarded by the King of Sweden. King Oscar II did not initially approve of awarding grand national prizes to foreigners, but is said to have changed his mind after realizing the publicity value of the prizes for the country.

The Prizes are awarded at a formal ceremony held annually on December 10, the date that Alfred Nobel passed away. However, the names of the laureates are typically announced already in October, by the different committees and instutitions that serve as selection boards for the prizes.

A large monetary award is included with the Nobel Prizes, currently about 10 million Swedish Kronor (slightly more than one million Euros or US dollars). This was originally intended to allow laureates to continue working or researching without the pressures of raising money. (In actual fact, many prize winners have retired before winning, and many Literature winners have been silenced by it, even if younger.)

Prizes have been awarded annually since 1901 for achievements in:

After Nobel's death it turned out that he had not asked any of the deciding bodies whether they would accept the responsibility; they decided to do so after quite a lot of hesitation.

In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank, the Bank of Sweden, instituted the "Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel".

  • Economics (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

Since this prize has no foundation in Nobel's will, and is not paid by his money, it is technically not a Nobel prize (and the present Nobel family does not accept it as such). It is however awarded together with the other Nobel prizes. In 1968, the decision was made not to add any more prizes "in memory of Nobel" in the future.

Other prizes

Some fields without a Nobel prize have instituted prizes of their own which are not as well-known: the Polar Prize in music, the Fields Medal in mathematics, the Turing Award in computing, the Wollaston Medal in geology, the Schock Prizes in logic and philosophy, mathematics, visual arts and musical arts. The Kyoto Prizes are awarded in three categories: Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy. The Right Livelihood Awards (also known as "Alternative Nobel Prizes") are awarded to persons who have made important contributions in areas such as environmental protection, peace, human rights, health etc. The humorous IgNobel Prize is a parody which annually honors research "that cannot or should not be repeated".

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