Everything you need to know about the Nobel Laureates

AFP / Stockholm, Sweden

The Nobel Prize winners have highlighted for 120 years the contribution of men, women and organizations that have worked for the progress of humanity, as written by their creator, the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

Here are five of the things to know about these coveted accolades that will be awarded from October 4-11 in Stockholm and Oslo.

An error in the origin of the Awards?

On April 12, 1888, Alfred Nobel’s older brother, Ludvig, died in the French city of Cannes. But the newspaper Le Figaro was wrong and announced Alfred’s death on its front page with a short and virulent headline: “A man who can hardly be called a benefactor of humanity died yesterday in Cannes. Mr. Nobel, inventor of dynamite ”.

What torments did this premature obituary cause Alfred? Many attribute the creation of the Prizes to him, emphasizing the formula chosen by Alfred Nobel who wanted to reward the “benefactors of humanity”.

“But they are just conjectures” because the incident is not mentioned in his correspondence, explains his biographer Ingrid Carlberg to AFP.

Visitors who came to present their condolences at the inventor’s Parisian mansion were surprised to be greeted by a very lively Alfred, according to Le Figaro, the next day.


Since 1974, the statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death occurs after the name of the laureate is announced.

Before that year, only two deceased Swedes were awarded: the diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld (Peace Prize in 1961) and the poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Literature in 1931).

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In 2011, an unprecedented situation occurred: after the award of the medicine prize, it became known that a laureate, Canadian Ralph Steinman, had died three days earlier. The foundation nevertheless decided to validate the name in its prestigious track record.

Unlikely candidates for Peace

From Adolf Hitler to Michael Jackson passing through Stalin or Mussolini, the Nobel Peace Prize had improbable, bizarre and aberrant candidacies.

Hitler was nominated by a Swedish MP in January 1939, at the dawn of the bloodiest war in history. The proposal, sarcastic and aimed at discrediting the nomination of the British Neville Chamberlain after the Munich accords, was finally withdrawn, but remains in the annals of the award.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, later tried for genocide, was also nominated, along with Jules Rimet, “father” of the Soccer World Cup. Tens of thousands of people can submit an application, but not all proposals are studied.

And the women?

The number of women has not stopped increasing since the first edition. But the women awarded with a Nobel (58) represented only 6% of the winners since 1901.

In economics they add up to 2.3%, and in scientific awards 3.7%. Literature is practically a matter for men (13.7% women); that of La Paz is somewhat more egalitarian (15.9%).

And the first person to have won the Nobel twice is a woman: Marie Curie, a Frenchwoman of Polish origin, in Physics in 1903 and in Chemistry in 1911.

What about mathematics?

Why is there no Nobel Prize in mathematics? The legend spread that Alfred would have thus avenged himself on the partner of one of his lovers, the mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffler. But there is nothing to support this hypothesis.

The most plausible explanation is that in 1895, when Nobel wrote his will, a reward for mathematics already existed in Sweden and he saw no point in creating another. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 20th century, elites and public opinion had a predilection for applied disciplines. The contribution of mathematics to humanity was not as evident as it is today.

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Everything you need to know about the Nobel Laureates