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Keeping Up With The Nobels: Prizes, Winners, and History

Photo courtesy of Zero Grey and Plixi.com via Wikimedia Commons, modified by Curiousmatic.

Who won the Nobel Prizes this year? Find out here, along with more key facts you should know about Nobel Awards.

The annual award ceremony of Nobel Prizes has spanned over a century, honoring laureates for notable accomplishments or advances in six fields: physics, medicine, chemistry, literature, and peace, with the prize for economic sciences added in 1968.

The tradition began with Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel’s will, opened after his death in 1895.

According to the official Nobel Prize website, the will sparked controversy when it revealed that a significant portion of the inventor’s wealth was dedicated to establishing prizes for those who “conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

Alfred Nobel’s will, courtesy of Prolineserver via Wikimedia Commons

The controversy was such that Nobel’s family, and the prize awarders, refused to follow his request. It wasn’t until five years after his death, in 1901, that the first Nobel prize was awarded.

Winners are selected by a group of Swedish and Norwegian committees.

Here are some facts of the winners and awards since then, courtesy of the Nobel Prize website. Click to expand.

  • 850 Laureates and 25 organizations have been awarded Nobel Prizes between 1901 and 2013.

  • The average age of winners is 59. The youngest prize winner was Malala Yousafzai, age 16, in 2014, (the youngest since 25 year old Lawrence Bragg for Physics in 1915) and the oldest 91 (Leonid Hurwicz, for Economic Sciences in 2007).

  • Two Nobel Prizes have been declined, and four have been forced by authorities to decline (three were German officials forbade by Adolf Hitler).

  • Three Laureates have been under arrest at the time of award-giving: German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, and Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo

  • The Nobel Prize amount per winner is 8.0 million in Swedish kronor, which (in 2012) was equivalent to 1.2 million U.S. dollars.

  • “Laureate” refers to being signified by the laurel wreath: a reference to Greek mythology’s Apollo, and Ancient Grecian victors’ laurel crowns.

Nobel Prize Winners 1901-2010 by Country via Wikimedia Commons.

Who were the 2014 Nobel Laureates?

Peace: Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Physics: Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”

Chemistry: Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, and William E. Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.”

Medicine: John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.”

Literature: Patrick Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Prize for Economic Sciences: Jean Tirole “for his analysis of market power and regulation.”

Who were the 2015 Nobel Laureates?

Peace: The National Dialogue Quartet “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”

Physics: Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”

Chemistry: Thomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich, and Aziz Sancar “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair”

Medicine: William C. Campbell and Satoshi Somura “for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites” and Youyou Tu “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”

Literature: Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”

Prize for Economic Sciences: Angus Deaton “for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare”

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Jennifer Markert