Nobel Prize is any of the prizes (five in number until 1969, when a sixth was added) that are awarded annually by four institutions (three Swedish and one Norwegian) from a fund established under the will of Alfred Bernhard Nobel. Distribution was begun on December 10, 1901, the fifth anniversary of the death of the founder, whose will specified that the awards should annually be made “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”
The five prizes established by his will are: the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine; the Nobel Prize for Physics and Chemistry; the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Nobel Prize for Peace. An additional award, the Prize for Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was set up in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden, and the first award was given in 1969. The institutions cited as prize awarders by Alfred Nobel in his will are the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (physics and chemistry), the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute (physiology or medicine), and the Swedish Academy (literature)- all in Stockholm – and the Norwegian Nobel Committee (peace), located in Oslo and appointed by the Norwegian Storting (parliament). The Academy of Sciences also supervises the economics award. The Nobel Foundation, established in pursuance of the provisions of the will, is the legal owner and functional administrator of the funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize awarders, but it is not concerned with the prize deliberations or decisions, which rest exclusively with the four institutions.
Each award consists of a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money, the amount depending on the income of the foundation. The selection of the prizewinners starts in the early autumn of the year preceding the awards, with the prize-awarding institutions sending out invitations to nominate candidates to those competent under the Nobel statutes to do so. The basis of selection is professional competence and international range; self-nomination automatically disqualifies a person. Prize proposals must reach the proper committee in writing before February 1 of the year of the prize decision. On February 1, six Nobel committees – one for each prize group – start their work on the nominations received. If necessary, the committees may call in experts, irrespective of nationality. During September and early October the committees submit recommendations to their respective prize-awarding bodies – only in rare cases has the question been left open. The final decision by the awarders must be made by November 15. A committee recommendation is usually but not invariably followed. The deliberation and the voting are secret at all stages.
Prizes may be given only to individuals, except the Peace Prize, which may also be given to an institution. An individual may not be nominated posthumously. The ceremonial presentations for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and economics take place in Stockholm; and that for peace takes place in Oslo, in December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. The laureates usually receive their prizes in person; each presents a lecture in connection with the award ceremonies.
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