A Guide to the World’s Most Prestigious Nobel Prize Awards

In accordance with the wishes of inventor Alfred Nobel, Nobel prizes have been granted to men, women, and organizations for work that has resulted in significant gains for humanity since 1901.

From Monday, October 2 to Monday, October 9, the winners of this year’s prizes will be announced daily. 

Here are five facts about the awards and their designer.

Nobel Laureates Prevented From Attending Ceremony

Six Nobel Peace Prize laureates have been barred from attending the award ceremony in Oslo since 1901. 

Carl Von Ossietzky, a German journalist and pacifist, was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in 1936.

Soviet leaders refused to let Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov to go to Oslo to accept his prize in 1975. Yelena Bonner, his wife, represented him.

In 1983, Polish union leader Lech Walesa declined an offer to visit to Oslo for fear of being deported from Poland.

When Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she was under house arrest. The junta granted her permission to go, but she declined for fear of not being able to return to her country.

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident, was imprisoned in 2010. His chair, where the award was supposed to go, remained empty.

Ales Bialiatski, a Belarussian human rights activist, was imprisoned in 2022. Natalia Pinchuk, his wife, represented him.

Posthumous Awards

Since 1974, the Nobel Foundation’s statutes have prohibited the awarding of the prize posthumously. However, if a person dies between the time of the announcement in October and the formal prize ceremony in December, he or she may be awarded.

Prior to the change, only two people have received a Nobel Prize posthumously.

Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish UN Secretary General who died in an aircraft crash in 1961 but was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year, was one of them.

In 1931, another Swede, Erik Axel Karlfeldt, was given the Nobel Prize in Literature posthumously.

The Medicine Prize committee chose Ralph Steinman of Canada in 2011, unaware that he had died just three days before the announcement.

Nonetheless, the foundation decided to bestow the prize on him.

Few Nobel Prize Female Laureates

While female representation among winners has progressively increased in recent decades compared to the early years, the 60 female Nobel laureates still account for approximately 6% of all winners. 

But things are improving. Since 2000, 31 women have received all prizes combined, over three times the number granted in the previous two decades. 

Five women were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009, including the first female laureate in economics, American Elinor Ostrom – a record that has yet to be broken. 

Economics has had the fewest female laureates, with only 2.2 percent, compared to 3.7 percent for all science prizes combined.

While significantly more evenly split, literature remains primarily a male pursuit, with 14.2 percent of laureates being female, with the peace prize faring little better at 16 percent. 

According to 2022 literature laureate Annie Ernaux of France, the Nobel is an institution “for men.”  

Nonetheless, Marie Curie was the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice, in 1903 for physics and again in 1911 for chemistry.

No Nobel Prize in Mathematics

There has long been discussion about why no mathematics prize was established.

There had long been speculation that it was due in part to Alfred Nobel’s girlfriend having an affair with mathematician Gosta Mittag-Leffler, but researchers were able to lay that hypothesis to rest in the 1980s.

So, why isn’t there a prize? There are two possibilities.

When Nobel made his will in 1895, there was already a math prize in Sweden, and he saw no need for a second one. And, around the turn of the twentieth century, the applied sciences were gaining public and scientific favor. Mathematics’ impact to humanity was not always as clear as it is today.

Lavish Nobel Prize Ceremonies

The prizes are announced in early October, but the award ceremonies are held on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize originator and inventor Alfred Nobel in 1896, in Oslo and Stockholm.

The prize ceremony is followed by a glitzy banquet at City Hall for around 1,300 guests, including King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, the diplomatic corps, academics, and business leaders, in Stockholm, where the laureates for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, and economics are honored.

Meanwhile, roughly 1,000 guests, including King Harald and Queen Sonja, diplomats, and celebrities, will attend the prize ceremony at City Hall, followed by a smaller banquet at the Grand Hotel in Oslo.

Due to the conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador has been forbidden from attending the Stockholm ceremony since 2022. 

Meanwhile, Norway’s Nobel Institute has maintained its policy of welcoming all ambassadors.


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