Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born on October 21, 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a chemist, engineer and industrialist who invented dynamite and other more powerful explosives.
Nobel died December 10, 1896, in Sanremo, Italy. He drafted his will in 1895, in which he instructed most of his fortune to be funding for an award of five annual prizes “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”
The five prizes are in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. The first distribution of prizes was on December 10, 1901, the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s death. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences isn’t technically a Nobel Prize but it is identified as one; established in 1968 in memory of Alfred Nobel. The prize is given by the Bank of Sweden, the first award was given in 1969.
In the will he arranged that four different institutions should award the prize; three Swedish and one Norwegian. In Stockholm, Sweden, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for prizes in physics, chemistry, and economics; Karolinska Institute is responsible for the prize in physiology or medicine; Swedish Academy is responsible for the prize in literature. In Oslo, Norway the Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the prize in peace.
The Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and functional administrator of funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize-awarding institutions, but decisions lie solely with the four institutions. The Prize package is a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation and a sum of money.
The 2020 Winners
On Monday, October 5, 2020, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly given to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, a liver infection. This is the first time in history that the disease can be cured and highly sensitive blood tests are available, which makes it a “landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases.”
On Tuesday, October 6, 2020 half of the Nobel Prize in Physics was given to Roger Penrose for discovering that the black hole is formed as a result of the theory of relativity. The other half went to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for discovering “an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the center of our galaxy,” a supermassive black hole.
On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for discovering “one of gene technology’s sharpest tools,” the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Now researchers can change the DNA of organisms with excessively high precision. It is significant because it “has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences.”
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, the Nobel Prize in Literature went to Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”
On Friday, October 9, 2020, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the World Food Programme (WFP) for “efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
On Monday, October 12, 2020, the Prize in Economic Sciences went to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson for studying and designing new actuation formats for items that can’t be sold the traditional way, this has benefitted sellers, buyers, and taxpayers all over.
The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious awards with notable laureates, they have spent 120 years providing people with platforms and bringing attention to issues around the world. It has been criticized for being western-biased and dominated by white males but times are changing and they seem to be working towards a more inclusive list of winners.