Friday, December 10, 2010

Nobel Prize 101

December 10, 1901, the first Nobel prizes were distributed. Ever wonder what the Nobel prize is all about? Have you seen the controversy surrounding the award to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo? Here is a primer on the Nobel Prize and the MTSU connection.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor and industrialist. On his death in 1895 he instructed that his fortune be set aside to fund five annual prizes (in 1969 a sixth award was added) “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

  • The six prizes are Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. The newest prize is in Economics and was established by the Bank of Sweden.
  • The first prizes were distributed 5 years after Nobel's death on December 10, 1901.
  • The prize is a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money (which changes based on the funds available in the Nobel Foundation).
  • If no worthy candidate is found or if there is some reason that the foundation cannot complete the required research (as in the case of a World War) no prize will be awarded for that year. The Peace prize is the most common award to be withheld. Here is the selection process.
  • Prizes are open to all regardless of nationality, race, creed or ideology.
  • Governments can force individuals to decline the award. Individuals are still awarded the medal and certificate but not the money. They are labeled as a Nobel Laureates with the added remark, “declined the prize”. This will be the case with Chinese Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo. He will make the fifth Laureate forced by authorities to decline the prize.
  • There have been 840 Laureates, only 41 women
  • The youngest Nobel Laureate thus far is Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he received the award for Physics in 1915.
  • The oldest Nobel Laureate thus far is Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he received the 2007 Prize in Economic Sciences.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross has been honored three times.
  • 2010 winners are listed here.

MTSU and Walker Library have their own Nobel connection. Dr. James M. Buchanan is an MTSU alumnus and 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. Walker Library has the Buchanan Room, a study space endowed by the Buchanan family. On the Digital Initiatives page we also have a partly completed collection of documents and images following the James Buchanan family. MTSU honors college offers the Buchanan Fellowship, named in honor of Nobel Prize winner. The fellowship is the highest award given to freshman at MTSU.

For more information about the Nobel Prize you can check our library list of resources,

Additional Resources:
Encyclopedia Brittanica/Nobel

photo credit: Nobel Prize: chemistry, literature, physics, and physiology or medicine, obverse side. [Photograph]. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

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