Special feature: Interesting facts about the Nobel Prizes

Updated: Dec 11, 2014, 13:23 IST | A Correspondent |

The first Nobel prizes named after Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel, invented Dynamite were awarded on this day, December 10 in 1896, we present some interesting trivia about the accolades on this occasion...

>> Since 1901, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 555 times to 856 people and organizations.

>> Frédéric Passy, co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Henry Dunant the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross were the first two prominent figures who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen received the first Physics Prize for his discovery of X-rays. The poet Sully Prudhomme was chosen for the first Nobel Prize in Literature.This decision led to some controversy as many believed Leo Tolstoy was a better candidate. German physiologist and microbiologist Emil von Behring was awarded the Physiology or Medicine Prize for developing an antitoxin to treat diphtheria in the 1890s.

Nobel Prize

>> Nobel laureates are given a sum of money when they receive their prizes, in the form of a document confirming the amount awarded. laureates are given a sum of money when they receive their prizes, in the form of a document confirming the amount awarded. The Nobel Prize amount for 2014 is set at Swedish kronor (SEK) 8.0 million per full Nobel Prize. This amounts to Rs 68209978.51 in Indian currency.

>> Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient at 17. Russian economist and mathematician Leonid Hurwicz is the oldest Nobel Laureate, having received the prize at the age of 90. 

>> 'The Jungle Book' writer Rudyard Kipling was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and and is its youngest recipient to date.

>> The Curie family has received the most prizes, with five. Marie Skaodowska-Curie received the prizes in Physics (in 1903) and Chemistry (in 1911). Her husband, Pierre Curie, shared the 1903 Physics prize with her and their daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, received the Chemistry Prize in 1935 together with her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie. In addition, the husband of Marie Curie's second daughter, Henry Labouisse, was the director of UNICEF when it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.

>> Marie Skaodowska-Curie, Linus Pauling, John Bardeen and Frederick Sanger are four people who have received two Nobel Prizes. Curie received the Physics Prize in 1903 for the discovery of radioactivity and the Chemistry Prize in 1911 for the isolation of pure radium, making her the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. Linus Pauling won the 1954 Chemistry Prize for his research into the chemical bond and its application to the structure of complex substances and the Peace Prize in 1962 for his anti-nuclear activism, making him the only laureate of two unshared prizes. John Bardeen received the Physics Prize twice: in 1956 for the invention of the transistor and in 1972 for the theory of superconductivity and Frederick Sanger received the prize twice in Chemistry: in 1958 for determining the structure of the insulin molecule and in 1980 for inventing a method of determining base sequences in DNA.

>> The International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are two organisations that have received the Peace Prize multiple times. The former received it three times: in 1917 and 1944 for its work during the world wars; and in 1963 during the year of its centenary while the latter has won the Peace Prize twice for assisting refugees: in 1954 and 1981.

>> Jean-Paul Sartre and Le Duc Tho are two laureates who have voluntarily declined the Nobel Prize. Sartre who was the Literature Prize in 1964 refused it statin, "A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honourable form." Le Duc Tho, who was chosen for the 1973 Peace Prize for his role in the Paris Peace Accords declined the award stating that there is no actual peace in Vietnam.

>> Adolf Hitler prevented biochemists Richard Kuhn, Adolf Butenandt, and pathologist and bacteriologist Gerhard Domagk from accepting their Nobel prizes for Chemistry and Phisiology or Medicine respectively. All of them were awarded their diplomas and gold medals after World War II.

>> Although the Norwegian Nobel Committee confirmed that Mahatma Gandhi was nominated for the Peace Prize in 1937–39, 1947 and a few days before he was assassinated in January 1948, they declined to award the prize to him posthumously on the grounds that "there was no suitable living candidate."

Other high profile individuals with widely recognised contributions to peace have been missed out. These include Eleanor Roosevelt, Václav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sari Nusseibeh and Corazon Aquino as people who "never won the prize, but should have". Physicist Arnold Sommerfeld was nominated 81 times but an award was never made.

>> Notable Indian Nobel laureates...

* Child right activist Kailash Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2014.
* Indian-born American and British structural biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
* Economist and philosopher Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in welfare economics.
* Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics for his mathematical theory of black holes.
* Physicist C. V. Raman's ground breaking work in the field of light scattering earned him the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics.
* Bengali literary great Rabindranath Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.
* Indian-American biochemist was the recipient of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
* Mother Teresa received the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. Although she was of Kosovo Albanian origin, she lived for most of her life in India.

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel. Pic/AFP

>> Alfred Nobel who was the inventor of dynamite also owned Bofors, a Swedish arms manufacturing company that gained notoriety in 1986 when a $285 million contract between the Government of India and Swedish arms company Bofors was signed for supply of 410 155mm Howitzer field guns. In 1987, Swedish Radio alleged that Bofors paid illegal commissions to top Indian politicians and key defence officials to seal the deal. The scandal contributed to the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi in elections three years later. This would go on to become known as the Bofors gun scandal in popular culture.

>> In 1888, Alfred Nobel's brother Ludvig passed away while on a visit to Cannes. A French newspaper erroneously published Alfred's obituary instead, condemning him for inventing the dynamite. Disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes on 27 November 1895.

>> Henry Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and most recently US President Barack Obama have courted controversy for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger and Tho were awarded the prize for negotiating a ceasefire between North Vietnam and the United States in January 1973. However, when the award was announced, both sides were still engaging in hostilities. Two of the Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest after the decision to award Kissinger the award. One of the five Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest after Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin received the Peace Prize in 1994 for their efforts in making peace between Israel and Palestine. Barack Obama's selection met with much controversy as nominations had closed only eleven days after Obama took office as President, but the actual evaluation occurred over the next eight months. Obama himself stated that he did not feel deserving of the award, or worthy of the company it would place him in.

The award of the 2004 Literature Prize to Elfriede Jelinek drew a protest from a member of the Swedish Academy, Knut Ahnlund. Ahnlund resigned, alleging that the selection of Jelinek had caused "irreparable damage to all progressive forces, it has also confused the general view of literature as an art."

>> Nobel Peace Prize winners, German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo were all under arrest when they received their awards.

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