Nobel Prize

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DSC06501 (Copy)In 2007 I traveled from Finland to visit Stockholm with couple of friends. Right after visiting the National museum we saw a row of cars with the sticker that you can check in the picture on the left.  We were in front of the hotel which usually hosts all the candidates for so known Nobel prize. It was the week in which the Nobel prizes were given but we did not know. Lets take a look into the history of this prize. Did you know that was established by the inventor of the dynamite?…

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“The Nobel Prize (Swedish: Nobelpriset) is a Sweden-based international monetary prize. The award was established by the 1895 will and estate of Swedish chemist and inventor Alfred Nobel. It was first awarded in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace in 1901. An associated prize, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was instituted by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 and first awarded in 1969.[1] The Nobel Prizes in the specific disciplines (physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature) and the Prize in Economics, which is commonly identified with them, are widely regarded as the most prestigious award one can receive in those fields.”

Alfred Nobel

Alfred_Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel (Stockholm, Sweden, 21 October 1833 – Sanremo, Italy, 10 December 1896) was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, armaments manufacturer and the inventor of dynamite. He owned Bofors, a major armaments manufacturer, which he had redirected from its previous role as an iron and steel mill. In his last will, he used his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes. The synthetic element nobelium was named after him. Nobel was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1884, the same institution that would later select laureates for two of the Nobel prizes, and he received an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University in 1893.Alfred Nobel is buried in Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

The Prizes

The erroneous publication in 1888 of a premature obituary of Nobel by a French newspaper, condemning him for his invention of dynamite, is said to have brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death.[2] The obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”[3] On 27 November 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. He died of a stroke on 10 December 1896 at Sanremo, Italy. After taxes and bequests to individuals, Nobel’s will gave 31,225,000 Swedish kronor (equivalent to about 1.8 billion kronor or 250 million US dollars in 2008) to fund the prizes.[4]

The first three of these prizes are awarded for eminence in physical science, in chemistry and in medical science or physiology; the fourth is for literary work “in an ideal direction” and the fifth prize is to be given to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses. There is no prize awarded for mathematics.[5]

The Formulation about the literary prize, “in an ideal direction” (i idealisk riktning in Swedish), is cryptic and has caused much confusion. For many years, the Swedish Academy interpreted “ideal” as “idealistic” (idealistisk) and used it as a reason not to give the prize to important but less romantic authors, such as Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy. This interpretation has since been revised, and the prize has been awarded to, for example, Dario Fo and José Saramago, who definitely do not belong to the camp of literary idealism.[original research?]

In 2001, Alfred Nobel’s great-grandnephew, Peter Nobel (b. 1931), asked the Bank of Sweden to differentiate its award to economists given “in Alfred Nobel’s memory” from the five other awards. This has caused much controversy whether the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is actually a “Nobel Prize”.

Photo0458 (Copy)On the right, a picture of the Nobel prize Museum in Stockholm. If you are interested you can find lot of more information on the website of the Nobel prize organization (click here). There are many recorded interviews to the Nobel prize awarders. I found interesting this one made to Professor John Nash (click here). The author of the Nash equilibrium and the character on whose life is based the popular movie “A wonderful mind” with Russell Crowe and Jennifer connelly.

Did you know that…

The Nobel Prize amount for 2009 was set at Swedish kronor (SEK) 10 million/1 million (EUR)  per full Nobel Prize. Who finances this extraordinary amount of money? the Nobel Prize is financed by the Nobel Foundation, a private institution established in 1900 based on the will of Alfred Nobel. But, it does not go into detail to explain how do they generate such amount of money for each one of the 6 categories:

Physics (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Chemistry (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Physiology or Medicine (decided by the Karolinska Institute)
Literature (decided by the Swedish Academy)
Peace (decided by a committee appointed by the Norwegian Storting)
Economics (decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

As I read “The economics 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.The prize was instituted in 1968 by Sveriges Riksbank, the Bank of Sweden, as the “Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences”

I was interested in knowing more, so I contacted the Nobel foundation. They answered the following:

” The Nobel Prizes are financed by the funds which Alfred Nobel left in his last will. These funds have successfully been managed by the Nobel Foundation and they finance the prize amounts and the work of the different Nobel Prize Awarding Institutions. The prize amount is the same for each prize category – 10 million SEK in 2009. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel is financed by the Swedish Riksbank. They give the same prize amount – 10 million SEK in 2009.”

In conclusion, the nobel foundation distribute, only in main prizes, 50.000.000 Kronor/ euros. excellent job with Alfred ´s last will.:)

In 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize was for Barack Obama: “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. Although some people argue that Nobel foundation gave the award to Obama to force him to differentiate himself from the predecessor governments characterized by warlike approaches. A nobel prize in peace promoting the war would not be very well regarded. Anyway, if that is the real reason, BRAVO! By the way, for those who think that it is unfair that a President of the government win  $1,4 million, do not worry, he donated it to charity.

Barack Obama
Photo: Pete Souza, Obama-Biden Transition Project, licensed by Attribution Share Alike 3.0
Barack Obama
44th President of the United States of America
b. 1961

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