Nobel Prize

16-05-2024

08:59 AM

GS III

Sub-Categories:

Science and Technology

timer
1 min read

Prelims: General Science

Mains: Achievements of Indians in science and technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

The Nobel Prizes were established by Alfred Nobel as per his 1895 testament and are given to "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind." The first Nobel Prize was given in 1901, and since then, it has been provided for physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace almost every year. In 1968, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences was established and has been provided since then by Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) in memory of Alfred Nobel.

The Man behind Nobel Prize

Alfred Nobel was a chemist, engineer, inventor, and businessman, and he is remembered for creating the Nobel Prize. He was born on October 21, 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden, and died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896.

Alfred Nobel
  • Nobel stipulated in his last will and testament that most of his assets should go to a fund and that the interest earned by that fund should be given out as annual prizes.
  • Nobel's most popular invention is dynamite, using nitroglycerin, which he patented in 1867.
    • When the St. Gotthard Tunnel in the Swiss Alps was finished in 1881 and dynamite was used extensively for the first time, he gained worldwide fame.
  • In total, he had 355 patents, including a blasting cap and smokeless gunpowder.
  • More than 20 countries had Nobel companies, and approximately 90 factories worldwide produced explosives of all types using his patents.

Nobel Prize Award Process

All of the Nobel Prizes have a similar selection process; the main divergence is who can submit a nomination.

Stage-1: Nomination Process

The Nobel Committee sends nomination forms to about 3,000 people each year in September, the year before the prizes are given out.

  • These people are typically well-known academics who are active in a relevant field.
  • Governments, former Peace Prize winners, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee are all contacted with questions about the Peace Prize.
  • The nomination forms must be returned by the 31st of January of the award year.
  • From these nomination forms and additional names, the Nobel Committee selects about 300 candidates for the prize.
  • Both the names of the nominees and the fact that they are being considered for the award are kept secret.
  • After a prize is given out, all nomination records are sealed for a period of 50 years.

Stage-2: Selection Process

The Nobel Committee then draws up a report that incorporates the recommendations of subject-matter experts. This is provided to the prize-awarding organisations along with the list of preliminary candidates.

  • The six prizes awarded are given by four organisations:
    • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – Chemistry; Physics; Economic Science
    • Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute – Physiology / Medicine
    • Swedish Academy – Literature
    • Norwegian Nobel Committee – Peace
  • A majority vote is used by the institutions to select the laureate or laureates in each field.
  • The vote is immediately followed by the announcement of their decision, which cannot be challenged.
  • A maximum of three laureates and two distinct works may be chosen for each award.
  • The awards can only be given to individuals, with the exception of the Peace Prize, which can be given to institutions.
  • During the first two weeks of October, the awarding organisations announce the winners.

Stage-3: Award Ceremonies

The award ceremonies are held on December 10, also known as "Nobel Day” due to the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel.

  • The Nobel Prize award ceremony is held at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Sweden.
    • Here, the Nobel Prizes for economic sciences, literature, physiology or medicine, physics, and chemistry are presented.
  • For the Nobel Prize in Peace, the award ceremony takes place in Oslo and is given by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Important Recipients of Nobel Prize

Some of the notable Nobel Prize winning laureates are listed below.

Nobel LaureatesDescription

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

- Albert Einstein received the Physics Nobel Prize in 1921. 

- His discovery of the "photoelectric effect," or the ability of metallic atoms, when exposed to light, to eject electrons, earned him the prize.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie

- Marie Curie is the only person to have won a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She was also the first woman to win this prestigious award.

- She received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her research on radioactivity, a phenomenon discovered by Henri Becquerel, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 for the discovery of radium and polonium and for isolating pure radium.

Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling

- For his study of the chemical bond and its application to the structure of complex substances, Linus Pauling received the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

- Pauling became the only winner of two unshared Nobel Prizes in 1962 after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism against nuclear weapons.

John Bardeen

John Bardeen

 

- In 1956 for developing the transistor and again in 1972 for his work on the theory of superconductivity, John Bardeen won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice.

International Committee of the Red Cross

ICRC

- The Red Cross has received the Nobel Peace Prize three times, 1917, 1944, and 1963. 

  • The first two were given due to its efforts in the two world wars.
  • In 1963, it was the 100th anniversary of the foundation of ICRC by Henry Durant. 
  • Durant himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee

UNHCR
- For helping refugees, the UNHCR has received the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and 1981.

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama
- The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 "for promoting peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve his people's historical and cultural heritage."

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
- Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 in recognition of "their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa."

Women and Nobel Prize

Between 1901 and 2023, 61 women have been given the Nobel Prize and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences.

  • Marie Curie received recognition twice, first in physics in 1903 and then in chemistry in 1911.
  • Selma Lagerlof was named the first female Nobel laureate in literature in 1909.
  • Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when she received the Peace Prize in 2014, is the youngest winner to date.
  • The Nobel Prize 2023has been awarded to 11 dignitaries, of whom four are women - Narges Mohammadi (Peace), Katalin Kariko (Physiology), Anne L’Huillier (Physics), and Claudia Goldin (Economic Sciences).

Indian Winners of Nobel Prize

Indian academicians and intellectuals have contributed to the fields of science, literature, and peace, for which they have been recognised with prestigious Nobel Prizes. The personalities include Abhijit Banerjee, Kailash Satyarthi, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, V. S. Naipaul, Amartya Sen, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, Mother Teresa, Har Gobind Khorana, Sir CV Raman, and Rabindranath Tagore (the first Indian to receive).

Significance of Nobel Prize

Alfred Nobel envisioned a world that was better. He thought that through education, science, and humanism, people could contribute to the betterment of society. This is the reason he established a prize to honour the discoveries that have had the greatest positive impact on humanity.

  • Most prestigious award: The Nobel Prizes are the most prestigious awards in the field of intellectual endeavour. The Nobel Prizes also have a visibility that is unmatched by any other prize.
  • Promotion of peace and humanitarian efforts: The Nobel Peace Prize, in particular, is of great significance because it recognises people and groups that have made noteworthy contributions to peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and increasing humanitarian causes.
    • The award increases public awareness of important issues around the world and motivates group efforts for justice and peace.
  • Their discoveries not only advance society and foster growth but also aid in self-awareness.
  • Impetus to research and development: The Nobel Prize's reputation and monetary benefits can have a big impact on the work of the winners and the fields they represent.
    • The award provides funding and assistance for additional study, invention, and knowledge expansion.
    • It can draw attention to and provide funding to research areas that are thought to be significant and worthy of further investigation.
  • International Collaboration and Networking: The Nobel Prize ceremonies and events bring together laureates, experts, and leaders from all over the world, encouraging collaboration, the sharing of ideas, and networking between people and organisations with interests in related fields.
    • The sharing of knowledge and expertise, as well as new partnerships and research collaborations, may result from this interaction.

Criticism of Nobel Prize

Despite being considered the most prestigious awards, the Nobel Prizes have also been criticised for a number of reasons, as described below.

  • Criticism regarding Nobel Peace Prize: The award has drawn criticism for its political motivations, flawed understanding of peace, and both.
    • For example, award given to Obama in 2009 was criticised. Some people thought it was premature for him to receive the award during his first year as president. The Obama administration's involvement in the wars in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen, however, raised concerns about the choice.
    • Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, won the award in 2019 for establishing a peace agreement that put an end to the 20-year conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. But a conflict broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, and Abiy has come under fire for the war crimes and violations of human rights his forces committed in the Tigray region.
    • Further, the Nobel Peace Prize given to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho has been severely criticised. Two members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee even resigned as a result of this.
  • Political agenda: A political agenda involving the inclusion of certain Nobel Laureates and the exclusion of a few deserving candidates has been charged against the Nobel Prize Committees.
    • In particular, for the Literature Prize, they have also been charged with being Eurocentric.
  • Neglected accomplishments:
    • Despite being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times in 1937, 1938, 1939, and 1947, and just before he was killed on January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol of nonviolence in the 20th century, never received it. Although the Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded in 1948 as a tribute to Gandhi.
    • Despite being nominated for the Nobel Prize 48 times, Lise Meitner, who assisted in the atom-splitting process, never won.
    • Many Nobel Laureates criticised the Committee when E.C.G. Sudarshan, an Indian-American physicist, was not awarded the Nobel Prize for the Glauber-Sudarshan P-representation in 2005.
  • Western bias: There have also been complaints that the awards are biased towards the west due to the fact that more than 80% of all winners since 1901 have come from the US, Canada, and western Europe.
    • Only 17 were found in Africa, and only seven of those were outside of South Africa.
  • No posthumous recognition: Unlike other prestigious awards, Nobel Prizes are not awarded after death. This criteria does not give proper attention to the works of intellectuals. Sometimes the actual impact of any work takes time.

FAQs on Nobel Prize

What is a Nobel Prize?

The Nobel Prize is a prestigious prize that is given annually for exceptional contributions in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, economics, and peace. It was founded in 1901, and the economics prize was added in 1969.

Which prominent Indians have received the Nobel Prize?

The prominent Indian personalities who have received the Nobel Prize include Abhijit Banerjee, Kailash Satyarthi, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, V. S. Naipaul, Amartya Sen, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, Mother Teresa, Har Gobind Khorana, C. V. Raman, and Rabindranath Tagore.

Who received the first Nobel Peace Prize?

Henry Dunant, who founded the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Frederic Passy, a prominent international pacifist at the time, split the first Nobel Peace Prize.

Who received India's first Nobel Prize?

In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore became the first person from India and Asia to receive the Nobel Prize. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in recognition of his book, Geetanjali.

In how many fields is the Nobel Prize awarded?

Nobel Prize is awarded in the six fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economic Sciences.

How is a Nobel Prize recipient determined?

Self-nominations are prohibited. Except for the Nobel Peace Prize, the nomination is restricted to those who have been invited and is contingent upon meeting certain requirements. The Nobel Prize awarders then take all eligible nominations into account before deciding who will be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Who is in charge of the Nobel Prize?

Based on Alfred Nobel's fortune as a Swedish inventor and businessman, the Nobel Prize is an international honour managed by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden.