Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Need to know ~ Topics & Events

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur ad

The Nobel Prize

The 1974 Peace Prize medal, awarded to Eisaku Sato

Photo: Awalin, CC BY-SA 4.0


Why current?


This past October – just like every October – people who have been pioneers in their fields were named Nobel Prize winners by selection committees in Norway and Sweden.  Six Nobel Prizes were given out to trailblazers in physics, chemistry, literature, physiology/medicine, economics, and in the advancement of peace and justice in the world.

Besides the grand honor of being named “Nobel laureates,” the winners will also each be awarded more than $1 million.  Where there are several winners sharing a single prize, this amount will be divided among them.

Normally, winners are presented with their prizes at splendid formal ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway.  But this year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the prizes were sent to the winners’ home countries.

This year’s winners

Here is a list of the 2021 Nobel Prize winners and a brief description of what they are being recognized for.

1) The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian whose findings advanced our understanding of how humans sense heat, cold, and touch.

2) The Nobel Prize in Physics went to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi.  These scientists helped to further climate research, focusing on the pivotal role humans have been playing in the current warming of our planet.

3) The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan.  These two chemists invented a new tool for constructing molecules.  While their innovations are known for having propelled the development of pharmaceuticals, they are also important because of their role in  helping to reduce the potentially harmful environmental effects of chemical research.

4) The Nobel Prize in Literature went to Abdulrazak Gurnah.  He is the author of ten novels, which mostly revolve around the experiences of immigrants to the United Kingdom.  Some of his books include, Memory of Departure, Paradise, and Admiring Silence.  Gurnah is being recognized for his powerful stories of people struggling to overcome the difficult odds of leaving their homelands in order to build new lives in other countries.

5) The Nobel Peace Prize went to Maria Ressa and Dmitri A. Muratov.  Both are journalists who have been defying increasing restrictions on freedom of expression in their countries (the Philippines and Russia).  Ressa has been speaking out against disinformation  in the media, while Muratov has been openly fighting against the Russian government’s growing repression of free speech.

6) The Nobel Prize in Economics (full name – the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) went to David Card, Joshua D. Angrist, and Guido W. Imbens.  All three have used “natural experiments” to observe how changing factors in society, like unforeseen events or changes in government policy, can affect people’s lives and livelihoods. 

Facts about the Nobel Prize

– We have the Nobel Prize because back in 1895, a wealthy Swedish inventor and scientist named Alfred Nobel decided to leave most of his fortune to a fund that would be used to award five yearly prizes recognizing the accomplishments of individuals and organizations in the sciences and in literature, as well as of those involved in working toward peace in the world.  Later, in 1968, the central bank of Sweden set up a fund for a sixth prize, the “Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” 

– Since 1901, 947 individuals and 28 organizations have received the Nobel Prize.  In total, 58 women have received prizes.

– The first Nobel Prizes were handed out on December 10, 1901.  Since then, there have been years when no prizes were awarded.  This occurred mostly during World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945).

– Nobel Prizes are presented to winners on December 10.  This is the date of Alfred Nobel’s death.

– Nobel Prize recipients are called “Nobel laureates.”  A laurel wreath is a crown made of the leaves and branches of the laurel shrub.  In Ancient Greece, winners of athletic and military competitions were awarded laurel wreaths, as were esteemed poets during the Renaissance in Europe.  Over time, the laurel wreath came to symbolize great achievement.  Winners of the Nobel Prize do not receive a crown made of laurel, but are still honored by the title, “Nobel laureate.”

– Everyone who receives a Nobel Prize gets a Nobel Prize diploma.  Each year’s diploma is an original work of art made by a prominent Swedish or Norwegian artist.  It contains an image of some kind, as well as a text beautifully handwritten by a calligrapher.

– In addition to the diploma, Nobel laureates get medals.  Each medal is made of gold and is engraved with the image of Alfred Nobel, his birth and death years, as well as some unique information about the winner and the prize he or she is receiving.

Some famous winners

– Marie Curie (1867-1934) was a Polish chemist and physicist who made ground-breaking discoveries in radioactivity.  She is one of only four people who won two Nobel Prizes.  The first time was in 1903, when she shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband, Pierre Curie, and another French physicist, Henri Becquerel.  In 1911, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, this time not sharing it with anyone.  She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize.

– Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was a French philosopher and writer, known as one of the fathers of existentialism.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, but, because he did not believe in such honors, turned it down.

– Linus Pauling (1901-1994) was an American chemist and the only person to twice be the sole winner of a Nobel Prize.  In 1954, Pauling won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and in 1962, he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a peace activist opposing the nuclear arms race.

– Organizations can also win the Nobel Prize.  The International Committee of the Red Cross, for example, won the Nobel Peace Prize — not once, not twice, but three times (in 1917, 1944, and 1963).  Moreover, Henry Dunant (1828-1910), the Swiss founder of the Red Cross, was the recipient of the very first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

– Some other famous Nobel Prize winners are…

Albert Einstein (German, 1879-1955), Nobel Prize in Physics, 1921

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (American, 1929-1968), Nobel Peace Prize, 1964

Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani, (1997-  ), Nobel Peace Prize, 2014

Bob Dylan (American, 1941-  ), Nobel Prize in Literature, 2016

Sources: Taylor, Derrick Bryson, The New York Times, “2021 Nobel Prize Winners: Full List,” https://www.nytimes.com/article/nobel-prize-2021.html, October 12, 2021; nobelprize.org, “Nobel prize facts,” https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/facts/nobel-prize-facts/.