Nobel Prize Day falls on December 10 every year. It honors the achievements of Alfred Bernhard Nobel, a Swedish engineer, chemist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. We have all heard of the Nobel Prize that recognizes outstanding achievements in various fields in the arts and sciences. Nobel Prize Day is a tribute to the person who instituted the prize.
History of Nobel Prize Day
Alfred Nobel was born to impoverished parents in Stockholm, but his father was a descendant of a very highly regarded Swedish scientist and writer, Olaus, or Olof, Rudbeck. His father was an engineer himself and Alfred Nobel expressed early interest in engineering, and explosives in particular. This of course bore results, with Nobel becoming interested in stabilizing the unpredictable explosive, nitroglycerin, as early as his teenage years. Despite one of his brothers dying in a tragic accident involving this pursuit, Nobel continued with his work, shifting the factory base to a more isolated area, and ultimately succeeding in inventing dynamite as a superior and more stable version of nitroglycerin.
Alfred Nobel went on to invent an even better alternative to dynamite in the form of gelignite. This became a staple in mining operations and made Nobel financially successful. Nobel also invented weaponry for military purposes and started companies to sell these. When a French newspaper carried a false obituary of Nobel, criticizing him for his role in warfare, he re-evaluated his life’s goals and decided to use his earnings to set up a prize that recognized the best in humanity. The prizes in the different categories reflect his own interests in various fields. Apart from being an entrepreneurial engineer, he was also a writer.
While Nobel is still criticized for the role he played in furthering military technology, the Nobel Prizes, including the Prize for economics, which was added later, are considered the most prestigious achievement for practitioners in those fields.
Nobel Prize Day timeline
After many trials, including a fatal one, Nobel is successful in stabilizing nitroglycerin and developing dynamite.
In his last will, Nobel decides to leave the bulk of his fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes.
The first batch of awardees receive their prizes, including Jean Henri Dunant, for founding the International Red Cross Movement.
The Swedish Central Bank requests this addition on its third centenary through its donation to the Nobel Foundation.
Nobel Prize Day FAQs
What is the prize money that Nobel winners get?
Prize winners in 2021 are set to receive the full amount of Swedish Kronor (SEK) 10 million or around USD 1.16 million. This has however fluctuated over the years, with 2012 winners receiving only SEK 8 million.
Is the Nobel prize awarded posthumously?
No. There is an exception made for people who died during the nomination and final selection period.
Who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year and why?
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 was awarded to Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa for all their efforts in trying to safeguard freedom of expression — a precondition for democracy and as a result, lasting peace.
How To Observe Nobel Prize Day
Look up the Nobel Prize archives
There is an abundant amount of information about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel prize winners on the official site as well as anywhere else online and offline. Select the category that interests you the most and study the timeline of awardees and the subjects or output they were recognized for.
Award a prize to your favorite expert
This can be a fun game to play with friends and family members who share a mutual interest in one of the award categories. If you follow developments in peace or chemistry or literature, and you look up to a special person in this field, go ahead and vote to make them win your version of the Prize.
Learn about the award selection process
The Nobel Committee follows a fairly unique process for the nomination and selection of award winners. There are also many other rules related to confidentiality and due process. What better day to look these up.
5 Facts About The Nobel Prize
There are six categories of prizes
The Nobel is awarded in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace, while economics is a special prize.
Nobel has 355 patents
Alfred Nobel was recognized as the patent holder for everything from a ‘gas meter’ to ‘ballistite’.
Nobel was mistaken as dead
A French newspaper carried an obituary for his death when in fact, it was Alfred Nobel’s brother who had died in an accident at his factory.
Nobel was charged with treason
When Nobel sold his ballistite patent to Italy, it did not sit well with the French government and he moved to Italy, where he died.
There is an Ig Nobel Prize
A light-hearted spin on the Nobel Prizes, it recognizes ‘trivial’ or unusual scientific achievements.
Why Nobel Prize Day Is Important
Nobel’s story is fascinating
Alfred Nobel was a clearly gifted scientist-turned-entrepreneur who had varied interests, including literature and society. While his controversial legacy in military technology continues, the Nobel Prizes are well-known and reputed all over the world.
It recognizes Nobel’s intentions
Had it not been for the erroneous obituary in a newspaper, Nobel may never have bequeathed his wealth to future achievers in the humanities and physical sciences. However, he must be credited for following through with his ‘wake-up call’ and leaving a whopping 94% of his net worth to set up the Prize.
It’s an excuse to learn more about the Prizes
The Nobel Prize has been awarded 603 times since 1901. It is fascinating to learn more about the awardees and their legacies, and reflect on whether there have been important changes in theme or direction in bestowing the award.
Nobel Prize Day dates