FAQ – Frequently asked questions

Do you have questions about the Nobel Prize and our Nobel Prize laureates? You’re in the right place. Keep scrolling down to find answers to our most commonly asked questions.

The Nobel Prize
Why is there a Nobel Prize?
Who was Alfred Nobel?
How long have you been awarding the Nobel Prizes?
What are the Nobel Prize categories?
Why isn’t there a Nobel Prize in mathematics, engineering, biology or environmental science?  
Why is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Norway?  
Where does the prize money come from?  
Is it possible to revoke a Nobel Prize?  

Nobel Prize laureates
Why are they called Nobel Prize laureates?  
How many people can share the same Nobel Prize? 
Can you award a prize posthumously?  
Can someone affiliated with an organisation (like the EU or the IPCC) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize claim to have received the honour?  
How do you look upon criticism of Nobel Peace Prize laureates after they have been awarded?  
How can I contact a Nobel Prize laureate?  


How Nobel Prize laureates are chosen
Who selects the Nobel Prize laureates?  

How do you become nominated?  
How do you become a nominator? 
Is being nominated an endorsement by the Nobel Prize?  
Are three nominations enough to be awarded the Nobel Prize?  
Is it possible to nominate someone for a posthumous Nobel Prize?
Can I find out who has been nominated for a Nobel Prize? 
Can an eligible nominator reveal who they have nominated for the Nobel Prize within 50 years?  
How do the committees decide who to award the prizes to?  
Is it possible for a committee to look over my work? 
Do the Nobel Committees ever reconsider a choice?  
What if the awarded inventions fail after some time, say two years later?


The Nobel Prize award ceremonies
What is the Nobel Day? 

The Nobel Prize

Why is there a Nobel Prize?  

The Nobel Prize was set up when businessman and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel died and left the majority of his fortune to the establishment of prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. His will stated that the prizes should be awarded to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” 

Find out more about the establishment of the Nobel Prizes

Who was Alfred Nobel?

Alfred Nobel was an inventor, entrepreneur, scientist and businessman who also wrote poetry and drama. His varied interests are reflected in the Nobel Prizes which he laid the foundation for in 1895 in his last will and testament. 

Learn more about Alfred Nobel

How long have you been awarding Nobel Prizes?  

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901 and they have been awarded annually since then. There have been years in that time when the Nobel Prizes have not been awarded - mostly during World War I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945). 

See a full list of all Nobel Prizes.

What are the Nobel Prize categories?  

The Nobel Prize categories are physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace – these were laid out in the will of Alfred Nobel. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. 

Why isn’t there a Nobel Prize in mathematics, engineering, biology or environmental science?

The Nobel Prizes were designated in the will of Alfred Nobel and are in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The economics prize was established much later and is a memorial prize, as indicated by its full name: the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Its addition was an exception, to celebrate the tercentenary of Sweden’s central bank in 1968.

See the will of Alfred Nobel

Why is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Norway?  

In his will Alfred Nobel laid out who he wanted to be responsible for the selection of the Nobel Prize laureates. The prizes were to be decided by Swedish institutions – apart from the peace prize, which was to be decided by a committee of five persons elected by the Norwegian Parliament. 

During Nobel’s lifetime Sweden and Norway were joined in a union but we still don’t know exactly why Alfred Nobel chose for the peace prize to be decided in Norway.  However  as the prize committee is located in Oslo, it follows that the prize is also awarded there. 

More about the Norwegian Nobel committee  

Where does the prize money come from?  

When Alfred Nobel died leaving the majority of his fortune to the establishment of the Nobel Prize he stated that the money should be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities.” Today the interest earned on that money is used to fund the Nobel Prizes. 

More about the prize money

Is it possible to revoke a Nobel Prize?

No. Neither Alfred Nobel’s will nor the statutes of the Nobel Foundation mention any such possibility. 

Read a Q&A with Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute on this topic

Nobel Prize laureates

Why are they called Nobel Prize laureates? 

The word “laureate” refers to being signified by the laurel wreath. In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to victors as a sign of honour. Put that together with the Nobel Prize and we get “Nobel Prize laureate”. 

More Nobel Prize facts  

How many people can share the same Nobel Prize?  

 A Nobel Prize can be shared by up to three individuals, or in the case of the peace prize, it can also be awarded to an organisation. The rule that a prize can only be awarded to three people comes from the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, which is responsible for fulfilling the intentions of Nobel’s will. It specifically states: “In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.” 

Read the statutes of the Nobel Foundation

Can you award a prize posthumously?  

No, a Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously.

However, since 1974, if the recipient dies after the prize has been announced they can still be awarded it. Previously, a person could be awarded a prize posthumously if they had already been nominated before 1 February of the same year, which was true of Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Nobel Prize in Literature 1931) and Dag Hammarskjöld (Nobel Peace Prize, 1961).

Following the 2011 announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, it was discovered that one of the medicine laureates, Ralph Steinman, had passed away three days earlier. The Board of the Nobel Foundation examined the statutes, and came to the conclusion that Ralph Steinman should continue to remain a Nobel Prize laureate, as the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet had announced the 2011 Nobel Prize laureates in physiology or medicine without knowing of his death. 

Read the statutes of the Nobel Foundation

Can someone affiliated with an organisation (like the EU or the IPCC) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize claim to have received the honour?

When an organisation is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the organisation becomes the laureate, not the individuals working there. Therefore those people connected to or working for a Nobel Prize awarded organisation cannot in any way refer to themselves personally as a Nobel Prize laureate.  

How do you look upon criticism of Nobel Peace Prize laureates after they have been awarded? 

For answers tothis and other questions about the Nobel Peace Prize readourQ&A with Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. 

How can I contact a NobelPrize laureate? 

The Nobel Foundation does not disclose addresses to NobelPrize laureates out of courtesy. Please contact the institution, organisation or university to which the NobelPrize laureate was affiliated at the time of the award.For literature laureates please contact their publishing house. Alternativelyyou may be able to contact some laureates via social media. 

How Nobel Prize laureates are chosen

Who selects the NobelPrize laureates? 

In his last will and testament, Alfred Nobel specifically designated the institutions responsible for the prizes he wished to be established.  

  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry  
  • Karolinska Institutet (now The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet) for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine  
  • The Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize in Literature  
  • A committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) for the Nobel Peace Prize.  

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was instituted in 1968, on the tercentenary of the bank. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was given the task of selecting the  economic sciences laureates. It has been awarded since 1969 according to the same principles as the Nobel Prizes. 

Links to the prize awarding institutions’ websites 

How do you become nominated  for a Nobel Prize?  

In order to become a Nobel Prize laureate you must first be nominated for a prize by an eligible nominator. Self-nomination is not allowed. Except for the Nobel Peace Prize, nomination is by invitation only and nominators must fulfil the criteria set out by the awarding institutions. 

Eligible nominations are then considered by the prize awarders, who make the final decision as to who will receive a Nobel Prize. 

To find out who can be a nominator in each prize category, see the links below.  

Nomination and selection of physics laureates 
Nomination and selection of chemistry laureates  
Nomination and selection of medicine laureates  
Nomination and selection of literature laureates  
Nomination and selection of peace prize laureates  
Nomination and selection of economic sciences laureates 

How  can you become a nominator?  

Only people who fulfil the criteria set out by the prize awarding institutions are allowed to nominate candidates for the Nobel Prize. To find out who can be a nominator in each prize category, see the links below. 

Nomination and selection of physics laureates
Nomination and selection of chemistry laureates  
Nomination and selection of medicine laureates  
Nomination and selection of literature laureates  
Nomination and selection of peace laureates  
Nomination and selection of economic sciences laureates  

Is being nominated an endorsement by the Nobel Prize? 

No. Hundreds or thousands of nominations are received for the Nobel Prize every year from members of academies, university professors, scientists, previous Nobel Prize laureates, members of parliamentary assemblies and more.  

In theory anybody could be put forward for a prize and as such being nominated is in no way an endorsement by the Nobel Prize. That is reserved for those individuals and organisations that are selected as Nobel Prize laureates. 

Are three nominations enough to be awarded the Nobel Prize? 

Frederick G. Banting and John Macleod were awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine the first year they were nominated (with three nominations) for their discovery of insulin. By contrast, Robert Koch was nominated 55 times over 4 years before he received the prize in 1905 for his discoveries concerning tuberculosis. 

Search in the nomination archive for more information

Is it possible to nominate someone for a posthumous Nobel Prize?

No, it is not possible to nominate someone for a posthumous Nobel Prize.  

See Can you award a prize posthumously? as well as paragraph 4 of the statutes of the Nobel Foundation.  

Can I find out who has been nominated for a Nobel Prize?  

Nominations are only made public 50 years after the nomination has taken place – so nominations for this year’s Nobel Prizes are a closely guarded secret. Any rumours regarding recent nominees are either just rumour, or someone among the invited nominators has leaked information. Since the nominations are kept secret for 50 years, you’ll have to wait until then to find out. 

For prizes older than 50 years old, you can browse the nomination archive. 

Can an eligible nominator reveal who they have nominated for the Nobel Prize within 50 years?

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, information about the nominations is not to be disclosed, publicly or privately, for a period of fifty years. The restriction not only concerns the nominees and nominators, but also investigations and opinions in the awarding of a prize. 

How do the committees decide who to award the prizes to?  

Every committee is slightly different but ultimately they all work to fulfil the will of Alfred Nobel which stated that the Nobel Prize should be awarded according to those who have “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” 

You can find out more about the process of selection for each Nobel Prize at the links below: 

Nomination and selection of physics laureates
Nomination and selection of chemistry laureates  
Nomination and selection of medicine laureates  
Nomination and selection of literature laureates  
Nomination and selection of peace laureates  
Nomination and selection of economic sciences laureates  

Is it possible for a committee to look over my work?  

No, the committees cannot comment on work outside of their Nobel Prize responsibilities. It is not in the purpose of these committees to generally assess or evaluate any scientific or literary work beyond the assessment of nominations for the Nobel Prizes. 

See also How do you become nominated for a Nobel Prize? 

Do the Nobel Committees ever reconsider a choice?

No. For the very same reasons a prize cannot be revoked. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, § 10, “No appeals may be made against the decision of a prize-awarding body with regard to the award of a prize”.  

What if the awarded inventions fail after some time, say two years later?  

A Nobel Prize cannot be revoked. 

See also Do the Nobel Committees ever reconsider a choice?

The Nobel Prize award ceremonies

What is the Nobel Day?

The Nobel Day – which takes place on 10 December every year – marks the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death and is the day that the Nobel Prizes are presented to Nobel Prize laureates. 

See Nobel Prize award ceremonies for more information. 

Contact information for Nobel Prize awarding institutions

For the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry and the Prize in Economic Sciences:
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, e-mail: kva@kva.se

For the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, e-mail: nobelforum@nobelprizemedicine.org

For the Nobel Prize in Literature:
The Swedish Academy, e-mail: sekretariat@svenskaakademien.se

For the Nobel Peace Prize:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, e-mail: postmaster@nobel.no

Can I use a photo of a Nobel Prize laureate?

For uses of photos permission from the Nobel Foundation or Nobel Prize Outreach AB, and in certain cases, from the photographer, is required.

To apply for a permit for a photo, contact Nobel Prize Outreach.
If permission is granted, “© The Nobel Foundation” or “© Nobel Prize Outreach” must be indicated.

The Nobel Foundation can unfortunately not grant permissions to use portrait photos of the Nobel Prize laureates of 1901-2006 due to copyright restrictions. We refer you to a photo agency such as sciencephoto.com, Scanpix, Reuters, Associated Press, Getty Images or Agence France Presse to make your enquiry for other photos. Where applicable, the university or institution to which the laureates were affiliated at the time of the award may be of assistance in providing photos. Please find information regarding such affiliations in the biographical information of each Nobel Prize laureate.

Starting in 2007, most of the official Nobel portraits on nobelprize.org are taken in Stockholm, with full copyright held by the Nobel Foundation. Please contact us if you wish to inquire about editorial use of these photos.

Can I use a photo from the Nobel Prize award ceremonies or Nobel Prize banquet?

The Nobel Foundation has only recently in cooperation with Nobel Prize Outreach begun making some images from the most recent ceremonies available for non-commercial, press and editorial use in the press room. Other photos from the Nobel Prize award ceremonies and banquets are published on nobelprize.org only. We refer external parties to contact photo agencies such as or sciencephoto.com, Scanpix, Reuters, Associated Press, Getty Images or Agence France Presse to make enquiries for other photos.

For more information please contact Nobel Prize Outreach.

Can I use a photo of a Nobel Prize medal?

No, you have to ask for permission from Nobel Prize Outreach.

I would like to request permission to use the Nobel name, the Nobel Prize medals and/or Nobel Prize insignias.

The Nobel Foundation is most restrictive in permitting the use of these trademarks. For details, see copyright information.

Copyright text documents like articles, press releases, scientific backgrounds, popular information and Nobel Prize lectures.

Can I use or translate a Nobel Prize lecture, speech or a biography?

Nobel Prize Outreach administrates the publishing rights of the Nobel Prize lectures, speeches and biographies on nobelprize.org on behalf of the Nobel Foundation who hold copyright. For information on how to license these, please contact Nobel Prize Outreach.

To licence videos or texts, please contact Nobel Prize Outreach.

Can I use an article?

No, you have to ask for permission from Nobel Prize Outreach.

Can I use the material in press releases?

Yes, you can use texts and graphics from the press releases, whereas the use of logotypes and Nobel Prize design marks are not permitted. On all publications in full or in major parts the copyright notice must be applied as well as the source, https://www.nobelprize.org/.

For press releases on the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred
Nobel: © The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

For press releases on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: © The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet

For press releases on the Nobel Prize in Literature: © The Swedish Academy

For press releases on the Nobel Peace Prize: © The Norwegian Nobel Committee

Can I use text and pictures from scientific backgrounds, popular information and advanced information for the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry and the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel?

Yes, you can use texts and graphics from these documents for educational and editorial content intended for non-commercial purposes (use of logotypes and Nobel Prize design marks are not permitted). If the publications are used in its full version or excerpts are selected, the copyright notice must be applied, © The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, as well as the source, http://www.nobelprize.org/.

If you want to publish texts and graphics from these documents in a paper, journal or book, you have to ask for permission from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, contact: kva@kva.se.

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