On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace – the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Learn more about the Nobel Prize laureates here.
603 Nobel Prizes
Between 1901 and 2020, the Nobel Prizes and the prize in economic sciences were awarded 603 times.
|Nobel Prize||Number of prizes||Number of laureates||Awarded to one laureate||Shared by two laureates||Shared by three laureates|
In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: “A prize amount may be equally divided between two works, each of which is considered to merit a prize. If a work that is being rewarded has been produced by two or three persons, the prize shall be awarded to them jointly. In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.”
962 Nobel Prize laureates
934 laureates* and 28 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Prize between 1901 and 2020. Of them, 86 are economic sciences laureates. A small number of individuals and organizations have been honoured more than once, which means that 930 individuals and 25 unique organizations have received the Nobel Prize in total. See Multiple Nobel Prize laureates.
Years without Nobel Prizes
Since the start, in 1901, there are some years when the Nobel Prizes have not been awarded. The total number of times are 49. Most of them during World War I (1914-1918) and II (1939-1945). In the statutes of the Nobel Foundation it says: “If none of the works under consideration is found to be of the importance indicated in the first paragraph, the prize money shall be reserved until the following year. If, even then, the prize cannot be awarded, the amount shall be added to the Foundation’s restricted funds.”.
Physics: 1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941, 1942
Chemistry: 1916, 1917, 1919, 1924, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1942
Physiology or Medicine: 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1921, 1925, 1940, 1941, 1942
Literature: 1914, 1918, 1935, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943
Peace: 1914, 1915, 1916, 1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1948, 1955, 1956, 1966, 1967, 1972
Economic sciences: –
Nobel Prize laureates and affiliation
Here you can find out which universities, research institutions or companies Nobel Prize laureates were affiliated with at the time of the Nobel Prize announcement.
The youngest Nobel Prize laureates
|Age||Name||Category/Year||Date of birth|
|17||Malala Yousafzai||Peace 2014||12 July 1997|
|25||Lawrence Bragg||Physics 1915||31 March 1890|
|25||Nadia Murad||Peace 2018||1993|
|31||Werner Heisenberg||Physics 1932||5 December 1901|
|31||Tsung-Dao Lee||Physics 1957||24 November 1926|
|31||Carl D. Anderson||Physics 1936||3 September 1905|
|31||Paul A. M. Dirac||Physics 1933||8 August 1902|
|32||Frederick G. Banting||Medicine 1923||14 November 1891|
|32||Tawakkol Karman||Peace 2011||7 February 1979|
|32||Rudolf Mössbauer||Physics 1961||31 January 1929|
|32||Mairead Corrigan||Peace 1976||27 January 1944|
|33||Joshua Lederberg||Medicine 1958||23 May 1925|
|33||Betty Williams||Peace 1976||22 May 1943|
|33||Rigoberta Menchú Tum||Peace 1992||9 January 1959|
|Category||Name||Year of award||Age of Nobel Prize laureate|
|Physics||William Lawrence Bragg||1915||25|
|Physiology or medicine||Frederick Banting||1923||32|
|Economic sciences||Esther Duflo||2019||46|
The oldest Nobel Prize laureates
|Age||Name||Category/Year||Date of birth|
|97||John B. Goodenough||Chemistry 2019||25 July 1922|
|96||Arthur Ashkin||Physics 2018||2 September 1922|
|90||Leonid Hurwicz||Economic sciences 2007||21 August 1917|
|89||Lloyd Shapley||Economic sciences 2012||2 June 1923|
|88||Raymond Davis Jr.||Physics 2002||14 October 1914|
|88||Doris Lessing||Literature 2007||22 October 1919|
|87||Yoichiro Nambu||Physics 2008||18 January 1921|
|87||Vitaly L. Ginzburg||Physics 2003||4 October 1916|
|87||Peyton Rous||Medicine 1966||5 October 1879|
|87||Joseph Rotblat||Peace 1995||4 November 1908|
|87||Karl von Frisch||Medicine 1973||20 November 1886|
|85||Ferdinand Buisson||Peace 1927||20 December 1841|
|85||John B. Fenn||Chemistry 2002||15 June 1917|
|85||Theodor Mommsen||Literature 1902||30 November 1817|
|85||Willard S. Boyle||Physics 2009||19 August 1929|
|Category||Name||Year of award||Age of Nobel Prize laureate|
|Chemistry||John B. Goodenough||2019||97|
|Physiology or Medicine||Peyton Rous||1966||87|
|Economic sciences||Leonid Hurwicz||2007||90|
57 Nobel Prizes to women
Between 1901 and 2020 the Nobel Prize and prize in economic sciences have been awarded 57 times to women.
Two Nobel Prize laureates declined the prize
Jean-Paul Sartre, awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature, declined the prize because he had consistently declined all official honours.
Le Duc Tho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. They were awarded the Prize for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord. Le Duc Tho said that he was not in a position to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, citing the situation in Vietnam as his reason.
Forced to decline the Nobel Prize
Four Nobel Prize laureates have been forced by authorities to decline the Nobel Prize. Adolf Hitler forbade three German Nobel Prize laureates, Richard Kuhn, Adolf Butenandt and Gerhard Domagk, from accepting the Nobel Prize. All of them could later receive the Nobel Prize diploma and medal, but not the prize amount.
Boris Pasternak, the 1958 Nobel Laureate in Literature, initially accepted the Nobel Prize but was later coerced by the authorities of the Soviet Union, his native country, to decline the Nobel Prize.
Nobel Prize laureates under arrest at the time of the award
Three Nobel Prize laureates were under arrest at the time of the award of the Nobel Prize, all of them Nobel Peace Prize laureates:
Multiple Nobel Prize laureates
The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been honoured by a Nobel Peace Prize three times. Besides, the founder of the ICRC, Henry Dunant, was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
Linus Pauling is the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes – the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.
|J. Bardeen||M. Curie||L. Pauling|
Posthumous Nobel Prizes
From 1974, the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that a prize cannot be awarded posthumously, unless death has occurred after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. Before 1974, the Nobel Prize has only been awarded posthumously twice: to Dag Hammarskjöld (Nobel Peace Prize 1961) and Erik Axel Karlfeldt (Nobel Prize in Literature 1931).
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 an interpretation of the purpose of the rule above led 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.
“Family Nobel Prize laureates”
The Curies were a very successful ‘Nobel Prize family’. Marie Curie herself was awarded two Nobel Prizes.
|Married couples (at the time of the award)|
Edvard I. Moser
|Mother & daughter|
|Father & daughter|
|Father & son|
Aage N. Bohr
|Hans von Euler-Chelpin
Ulf von Euler
Roger D. Kornberg
Kai M. Siegbahn
|J. J. Thomson
George Paget Thomson
The Nobel Prize award ceremonies
On December 10, 1901, the Nobel Prizes were awarded for the first time in Stockholm and in Christiania (now Oslo) respectively.
The Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm took place at the Old Royal Academy of Music during the years 1901-1925. Since 1926, the ceremony has taken place at the Stockholm Concert Hall with few exceptions: 1971in the Philadelphia Church; 1972 in the St. Erik International Fair (known today as Stockholm International Fairs) in Älvsjö, 1975 in the St. Erik International Fair and in 1991 at the Stockholm Globe Arena. The King of Sweden hands over the prize to the laureate/s.
In Norway, during the years 1901-1904 the decision on the peace prize was announced at a meeting of the Storting on 10 December, after which the recipients were informed in writing. During 1905-1946 the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremonies were held at the Nobel Institute building, during 1947-1989 in the auditorium of the University of Oslo and since 1990 at the Oslo City Hall. The King of Norway is present, but it is the Chairman of the Nobel Committee who hands over the prize to the laureate/s.
The Nobel Prize insignias
At the Nobel Prize award ceremonies on 10 December the Nobel Prize laureates receive three things: a Nobel Prize diploma, a Nobel Prize medal and a document confirming the Nobel Prize amount. Each Nobel Prize diploma is a unique work of art, created by foremost Swedish and Norwegian artists and calligraphers. The Nobel Prize medals are handmade with careful precision and in 18 carat recycled gold.
The Nobel Prize medals in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine and literature are identical on the face: it shows the image of Alfred Nobel and the years of his birth and death (1833-1896). Nobel’s portrait also appears on the Nobel Peace Prize medal and the medal for the prize in economic sciences, but with a slightly different design. The image on the reverse varies according to the institution awarding the prize.
The Nobel Prize diplomas
Each Nobel Prize diploma is a unique work of art, created by foremost Swedish and Norwegian artists and calligraphers.
The Nobel Prize amount
Alfred Nobel left most of his estate, more than SEK 31 million (today approximately SEK 1,702 million) to be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities.” The income from the investments was to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
The Nobel Prize amount for 2021 is set at Swedish kronor (SEK) 10.0 million per full Nobel Prize.
* Why are the individuals and organisations awarded a Nobel Prize called Nobel Prize laureates?
The word “laureate” refers to being signified by the laurel wreath. In Greek mythology, the god Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head. A laurel wreath is a circular crown made of branches and leaves of the bay laurel (in Latin: Laurus nobilis). In Ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to victors as a sign of honour – both in athletic competitions and in poetic meets.
Links to more facts on the Nobel Prizes:
Facts on the Nobel Prize in Physics
Facts on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Facts on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Facts on the Nobel Prize in Literature
Facts on the Nobel Peace Prize
Facts on the prize in economic sciences
Facts on all Nobel Prizes
First published 5 October 2009.