Five things to know about the Nobel Prizes

Variety and Tech
2023-09-28 | 08:45
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Five things to know about the Nobel Prizes
Five things to know about the Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prizes for this year will be awarded from Monday until October 9 in Stockholm and Oslo.

Here are five things to know about these awards presented to individuals, organizations, and institutions who have contributed to the advancement of humanity, according to the will of the founder of these prizes, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

1. Forcible Absence

Since 1901, six Nobel Peace Prize laureates have been unable to attend the prestigious award ceremony in Oslo.

In 1936, German journalist and peace activist Carl von Ossietzky suffered in a Nazi prison camp.

Then, in 1975, Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov was replaced by his wife, Elena Bonner.

In 1983, Polish labor union leader Lech Walesa decided not to go to Oslo, fearing he might not be allowed to return to his homeland.

Myanmar opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the prize in 1991 while under house arrest, was granted permission by the military junta to go to Oslo, but she declined for the same reasons as Walesa.

In 2010, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned. His Nobel Peace Prize chair was left empty as a symbolic gesture.

Likewise, in 2022, Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski (also spelled Bielatski) was imprisoned, and his wife, Natalia Pinchuk, represented him at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

2. Awarding the Living

Since 1974, the statutes of the Nobel Foundation have stated that the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously, except if the recipient dies after announcing the laureate's name.

Before this rule was officially adopted, the Nobel Prize had been awarded to deceased individuals only twice: to Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Literature, 1931) and to Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary-General who was most likely assassinated (Peace, 1961).

The prize was also withheld in 1948 following the death of Mahatma Gandhi as a mark of respect. Similarly, Canadian Ralph Steinman was initially informed of his Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011 but was later disqualified due to his recent passing. However, his name still appears on the list of laureates.

3. Where Are the Women?

With 60 female laureates in the history of the Nobel Prizes, women constitute only 6% of recipients since 1901.

The lowest representation is in the Economics Prize (2.2%), followed by all the scientific prizes combined (3.7%). In Literature, the percentage of female laureates is 14.2%, while the representation is slightly better among Nobel Peace Prize laureates (16%).

French Literature Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux stated in a 2022 interview with AFP that the Nobel Foundation is "for men."

Despite the slow progress, things are improving. Since the beginning of the current century, 31 women have received Nobel Prizes, nearly three times as many as in the previous two decades.

In 2009, a record-breaking five women were Nobel laureates, including the first female laureate of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, Elinor Ostrom.

The first person to win two Nobel Prizes was a woman, the French-Polish scientist Marie Curie (Physics 1903 and Chemistry 1911).

4. The Missing Mathematics Nobel

Why isn't there a Nobel Prize in Mathematics? In the 1980s, researchers debunked a long-circulating rumor claiming that Alfred Nobel intentionally omitted a mathematics prize out of spite for his lover's mathematician husband, Magnus Gösta Mittag-Leffler.

However, there is no substantial evidence to support this theory.

The more plausible explanation for the absence of a Nobel Prize in Mathematics is twofold: In 1895, when Nobel wrote his will, there was already a mathematics prize in Sweden, and there seemed to be no utility in establishing another.

Additionally, at the beginning of the 20th century, applied sciences were favored by the elite and the general public, who did not see mathematics as holding as much significance for humanity.

5. December 10

The Nobel Prizes are announced at the beginning of October each year. Still, they are presented amid grand celebrations in Stockholm for the scientific and literary prizes and in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. This date marks the anniversary of the death of the prizes' founder, dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel (1833-1896).

In Stockholm, the awards ceremony is followed by a banquet attended by around 1,300 guests at the City Hall, with the presence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

In Oslo, about 1,000 guests gather for the ceremony at the City Hall, followed by a smaller banquet at the Grand Hotel.

After being excluded from the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm last year due to the war in Ukraine, the Russian ambassador has been banned again this year after a major controversy.

On the other hand, the Norwegian Nobel Institute plans to invite all ambassadors this year.


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