Alfred Nobel left a legacy promoting peace and achievement, yet he made his fortune from a weapon of war. The son of an arms manufacturer, Nobel was a chemical engineer with an interest in explosives. He discovered how to stabilize nitroglycerine, named it "dynamite" and patented it in 1867.
Nobel left around 31 million Swedish Kronor (valued at US$240 million today) in his will to establish a fund rewarding "those who, during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind
And so it begins
The task of setting up the foundation was left to former employees Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist. The pair had to contend with disgruntled relatives to centralize Nobel's assets, which were scattered across Europe.
Fearing that French authorities would stop Nobel's money being transferred to Sweden, Sohlman collected shares, bonds and other documents from banks, shipping them back to Sweden as registered luggage.
It took another four years to convince all parties mentioned in Nobel's will to carry out his wishes. When the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901 they captivated public interest, ensuring their longevity and significance.
By the numbers
# There are 5 Nobel Prize categories:
Peace, Literature, Chemistry, Physics and Medicine/ Physiology. An Economic Sciences Prize-the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in memory of Alfred Nobel-has also been awarded since 1969.
# 817 people (40 women) and 23 organizations have been awarded Prizes, with 4 individuals getting it twice.
# Australian Lawrence Bragg, just 25 years old and the youngest winner, shared the Physics Prize with his father, William, in 1915.
# The oldest win[1er was Leonid Hurwicz. He was go in 2007 when he got the Economic Sciences Prize.
# Robert Koch, who discovered the TB.bacillus, received 55
nominations over 4 years before he won a 1905 Prize.
# 87 affiliates of UK's University of Cambridge have won a Nobel Prize-more than any other institution.
# Two persons declined the Prize: Jean-Paul Sartre (Literature, 1964) and Le Duc Tho (Peace, 1973).
# Each Prize is now worth 10 million Swedish kronor ($1-45 million), divided equally if a prize is shared.
While some winners donate the prize money to science, the arts or humanitarian causes others use it to pay off debts, from mortgages to school fees. In 1995, Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago agreed to pay his ex-wife half his Nobel Prize money if he won before October 31 that year (seven years after their divorce). As fate would have it, he won the prize before october 31, and his ex-wife got her share. Albert Einstein also gave his Nobel winnings to his ex-wife and two sons. He signed away the money in 1919, a bold move since he didn't win his Physics prize until 1921.
To encourage flexibility in judging, no definition of "peace" has been established, and there are some contentious omissions. Despite five nominations between 1927and 1948, Gandhiji never won the Peace Prize. He is often called the "Missing Laureate." The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee.
Indians in the Picture
Nine individuals, who were Indian citizens or born in India, have won Nobel Prizes:
Ronald Ross, the 1902 Medicine Prize winner for his work on malaria, was born in Almora (now in Uttarakhand) and did much of his work in India.
Rudyard Kipling, born in Bombay in 1865, got
the 1907 Literature prize.
Rablndranath Tagore1913 Literature Prize. For "his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse ... ," said the Nobel citation.
C. V. Ramangot the Physics Prize in 1930 for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him.
Har Gobind Khoranageneticist, born in Raipur (British India, 'now in Pakistan's Punjab) shared the 1968 Medicine Prize. He was a US citizen.
Mother Teresaof Albanian ethnicity, an Indian citizen, won the Peace Prize in 1979.
S. Chandrasekharborn in Lahore, then British India, got the Physics Prize in 1983 for his study of stars. He was an US citizen.
Amartya Senwon the 1998 Economics Prize for his contributions to welfare economics.
Venkatraman Ramakrishnana co-winner of the 2009 Chemistry Prize, is a US citizen who was born in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.
1833 Alfred Nobel is born in Stockholm, Sweden, the same year his father is declared bankrupt.
1867 After experimenting to make safer explosives Nobel patents dynamite. 1876 Bertha von Suttner is employed as Nobel's secretary. She is believed to have convinced him to fund a world peace prize.
1896 Nobel dies in San Remo, Italy. His will leaves the majority of his wealth to reward achievement in the arts and sciences.
1897The Norwegian Parliament approves the will and elects members to the , Nobel Committee. In1898, the Swedish prize-awarding bodies follow suit.
1901 The first Nobel Prizes are awarded. Among the winners is Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross.
1906 US president Theodore Roosevelt is awarded the Peace Prize for his arbitrating the Russo-Japanese War. Critics denounce it , as an attempt to curry favour wi!h the US.
1913 Rabindranath Tagore won the Literature Prize and became the first ethnic Asian Nobel laureate.
1962 Linus Pauling winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry-is awarded his second individual Nobel Prize; the Peace Prize for his work against nuclear warfare.
1968 To mark its 300th anniversary, Sweden's central bank makes a large donation to the Nobel Foundation and establishes The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences, awarded since 1969.The foundation later decides not to allow further new prizes.
1994 Vasser Arafat is the joint winner of the Peace Prize. Incensed, one committee member resigns.
2009 Barack Obama is nominated for the Peace
Prize only" days after taking office, and he wins. Debate erupts over whether promise is being rewarded over accomplishment.
2010 Peace Prize winner is jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo.
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