Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel’s will stipulated that his fortune, mostly amassed from his 355 inventions (including dynamite), be used to help individuals and organizations doing work that provides the “greatest benefit on mankind.” Nobel Prizes are handed out every year on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death in 1896. They are considered to be among the most prestigious and coveted prizes in the world. But unless you win one, you probably won’t know that you were ever nominated, since the names of the nominees are kept secret for 50 years.
The Nobel Prize is awarded in five different areas. An individual or an organization can win a Peace Prize, but only individuals can win Nobel Prizes for Physics, Literature, Medicine, or Chemistry.
One of Nobel's best-known inventions:
- Since 1969, a sixth award -- technically not a Nobel Prize -- has recognized achievement in economic studies. It’s called the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
- Nominations are solicited by the Nobel Committee, which sends queries to about 3,000 prominent academics working in each relevant area. For the Peace Prize, governments and former laureates are canvassed.
- Two people have voluntarily turned down the Nobel Prize -- writer-philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964 and Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho in 1973.