The Nobel Prizes are slated to be announced this week with the first award in medicine or physiology won by Hungary’s Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman of the United States on Monday.
Their research led to the first mRNA vaccines to fight COVID-19, made by Pfizer and Moderna, according to the awarding body.
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Here is what we know about the Nobel Prizes:
What are the Nobel Prizes?
The Nobel Prizes were created by Alfred Nobel, a wealthy 19th-century businessman, inventor and chemist from Sweden. In his will, Nobel dictated that his estate should be used to fund “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after his death.
Nobel named the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to award the prizes for chemistry and physics, the Swedish Academy for literature, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute medical university for physiology or medicine and the Norwegian parliament for peace.
In 1968, Sweden’s central bank introduced the Prize in Economic Sciences with a donation to the Nobel Foundation. The prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, according to the same principles as the other prizes. It is now presented with the other prizes despite Nobel purists’ assertion that the economics prize is not a Nobel Prize.
What to expect this year
Six Nobel Prizes are awarded each year, recognising an individual’s or group’s contribution to a specific field.
- The award for physics will be announced on Tuesday no earlier than 09:45 GMT.
- The award for chemistry will be announced on Wednesday no earlier than 09:45 GMT.
- The award for literature will be announced on Thursday no earlier than 11:00 GMT.
- The award for peace will be announced on Friday no earlier than 09:00 GMT.
- The award for economics will be announced on October 9 no earlier than 09:45 GMT.
All of the announcements will be livestreamed at nobelprize.org.
The Nobel Peace Prize
There are 351 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. This is the second highest number of nominees since 2016, when 376 candidates were nominated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian dissident Alexey Navalny are among bookmakers’ favorites for this year’s peace prize.
However, peace researchers predicted that the honour could go to activists working towards women’s rights and the environment.
Historically, the vast majority of Nobel Prize winners have been white men. With Monday’s announcement, 61 women have won Nobel Prizes out of the 956 individuals who have been honoured, including 26 in the scientific categories.
What do Nobel laureates receive?
Nobel Prize winners receive a Nobel Prize diploma, a gold medal and a cheque. The amount on the cheque this year is about $1m. Each diploma is a unique work of art, created by Swedish and Norwegian artists and calligraphers.
The laureates collect these prizes in an official ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.
The peace prize is handed out by the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee in Oslo while the other prizes are presented by the Swedish king in Stockholm’s Concert Hall.
Previous Nobel laureates
Notable Nobel laureates include scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Marie Curie, authors like Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus, and inspirational leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa.
While most achievements are still celebrated, some awards have not aged well, such as Egas Moniz’s 1949 prize in physiology or medicine for the since banned and discredited practice of lobotomy.
Two winners have refused their Nobel Prizes in the past: French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, who turned down the literature prize in 1964, and Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, who declined the peace prize that he was meant to share with US diplomat Henry Kissinger in 1973.