October is the month when the Nobel Prizes for the year are announced. The months preceding the announcements are full of expectation and speculation about who the winners would be, especially in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize.
While the Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most prestigious and honoured awards, it is ironic that the man after whom the prizes are named was an eccentric Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist, who after a long study of explosives, produced the first dynamite, which was then labelled Nobel’s Safety Powder. He also went on to make other advanced explosives and detonators. These inventions made him a very rich man.
Interestingly, Nobel was essentially a pacifist who hoped that the destructive powers of his inventions would help bring an end to wars. This was reflected in his will which he made two weeks before he died, donating most of his wealth for the setting up of a Trust to establish five world-wide prizes for peace, physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature. His family contested the will and his selected award committee also refused to carry out his wishes. It was five years before the first Nobel was awarded.
The general principles governing the awards were also laid down in his will and are followed to this day.
The process leading up to the selection starts almost a year before the actual announcement when the invitations are sent out to those competent under the Nobel statutes to do so, for nomination of candidates. Proposed names need to reach the proper Nobel Committee in writing before February 1st of the year of the awards, following which the Committees consider the nominations—the deliberations and voting are secret at all stages.
As stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s will which was opened after his death in 1896, the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prizes have been presented to the Laureates at ceremonies on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. The ceremonial presentations for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and economics have been taking place at the Stockholm Concert Hall (Stockholms Konserthus) since 1926; and that for the Peace Prize takes place in Oslo. From 1947 till 1990, the setting was the auditorium of the University of Oslo; in 1990 the event moved to the Oslo City Hall.
By happenstance, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend another awards ceremony (not quite Nobel!) in the Stockholm Concert Hall. It was an awe-inspiring experience. And earlier this year my daughter attended a function in the Oslo City Hall!
If not Nobel Laureates ourselves, we can at least lay claim to have followed the footsteps of the great and the Nobel, on the hallowed carpets where the exalted ones have tread!