Since 1901, Nobel Prizes have been recognized as the pinnacle of achievement in various fields, honoring individuals and organizations for their contributions to humanity, in accordance with the vision of inventor Alfred Nobel. The anticipation for this year’s laureates is mounting, with daily announcements set to begin on Monday, October 2, and continue until October 9. Here are five key aspects of the prestigious Nobel Prizes and their creator:
1. In Absentia
Throughout the history of the Nobel Prizes, there have been six instances where laureates were unable to attend the award ceremony in Oslo. Notably, in 1936, German journalist and pacifist Carl Von Ossietzky was held in a Nazi concentration camp. In 1975, Soviet authorities denied Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov permission to travel, with his wife Yelena Bonner representing him. Polish union leader Lech Walesa declined an invitation in 1983 due to fears of not being allowed back into Poland. In 1991, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was in prison in 2010, and in 2022, Belarusian human rights campaigner Ales Bialiatski was also incarcerated, represented by his wife Natalia Pinchuk.
2. Posthumous Awards
While the statutes of the Nobel Foundation have prohibited posthumous awards since 1974, there are exceptions if a laureate passes away between the announcement in October and the formal ceremony in December. Notable posthumous recipients include Dag Hammarskjold and Erik Axel Karlfeldt. In 2011, the Medicine Prize was awarded to Ralph Steinman of Canada, unaware of his recent passing.
3. Few Female Laureates
Although female representation among Nobel laureates has been gradually increasing, women still make up only about six percent of all winners. Since 2000, 31 women have received Nobel Prizes across all categories, a significant improvement from the previous two decades. Economics has the lowest female representation at 2.2 percent, while science categories combined have 3.7 percent. Literature features 14.2 percent women laureates, and the peace prize slightly surpasses that at 16 percent. However, Marie Curie made history by becoming the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice, in physics (1903) and chemistry (1911).
4. Missing Mathematics
Debate has long surrounded the absence of a Nobel Prize for mathematics. Speculation once suggested a personal reason involving Alfred Nobel’s lover, but this theory has been discredited. The more plausible explanations are that a mathematics prize already existed in Sweden when Nobel wrote his will in 1895, and the value of mathematics contributions to humanity was not as evident as other sciences at the time.
5. Lavish Prize Ceremonies
The Nobel Prize announcements occur in early October, but the formal award ceremonies are held on December 10, commemorating the death of Alfred Nobel in 1896. In Stockholm, where laureates in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, and economics are celebrated, a grand banquet at City Hall follows the ceremony, attended by dignitaries, academics, and business leaders, including King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. In Oslo, where the Peace Prize is presented, a ceremony is followed by a smaller banquet at the Grand Hotel, attended by King Harald, Queen Sonja, diplomats, and celebrities. Notably, Russia’s ambassador has been excluded from the Stockholm ceremony since 2022 due to the conflict in Ukraine, while Norway’s Nobel Institute continues to invite all ambassadors.