How the Nobel Prizes Came to be

By Madhavi Pothukuchi

21 October, 2022

The Nobel Prize is the most prestigious intellectual award that is bestowed upon someone. But how did these coveted awards come to be? Let’s find out. 

It all started with Alfred Bernhard Nobel – a renowned scientist and engineer behind 355 inventions, including dynamite and other military-grade explosives. 

Thanks to his significant inventions, Nobel amassed a huge fortune estimated to be in the billions even by today’s monetary value.

In 1888, Nobel was reading the morning newspaper when he saw his own obituary printed in it with the title ‘The Merchant of Death is Dead.’

The press had confused him for his brother, Ludvig Nobel, who had created the Russian oil industry and gathered a lot of wealth.

Nobel was disturbed when he read the obituary as it shook his conscience and made him look at his achievements differently.

He decided to use his money to establish five prizes categorised in notable fields that would celebrate people whose works benefit mankind.

So when Nobel died in 1896, the world was shocked when 94% of his funds went to setting up the five Nobel Prizes – Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace.

Nobel left behind instructions for committees to be formed for each prize, who would decide the winner every year.

The first Nobel Prizes were presented in 1901. So far, 989 people and 30 organisations have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

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