via American Chemical Society

The Nobel Prize has an interesting history behind it. They are named after Alfred Nobel, a Swedish scientist, and inventor that came up with about 300 patents. Besides having one of the most prestigious awards named after him, Alfred Nobel is notoriously known for being the inventor of dynamite.

In the 1860s, after several setbacks that included the death of his brother, Nobel figured out the way to mix nitroglycerine into a paste that could be ignited with black gunpowder. He called that invention dynamite and his intention was to sell it to mining companies exclusively. But it wasn’t long before dynamite was being used for war purposes.

Nobel continued to contribute to the development of more weapons even though he was a self-proclaimed pacifist. A year before his death, Nobel came to the conclusion that he had done so much wrong to the world and decided to do something in return, so left a huge part of his fortune (approximately $176 billion in today’s dollars) to create a fund that would be distributed to those who have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind in the latest year.

That’s how the Nobel Prize was created for the five areas that Alfred specified in his will: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. In 1968 economics was included.


How To Be Nominated?

via Nobel Prize

For the most technical categories (physics, chemistry, medicine, and economic sciences) the process is exclusively by invitation. There’s a Nobel Committee for each prize and they send out nomination requests for about 3,000 people to leading academics in the field and former Nobel Prize recipients.

Each Committee makes a shortlist out of those nominations, consult some experts about it and then send it to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences where they choose the winner by the majority of votes.

Literature and peace have a slightly different process. The literature committee sends out their nomination requests too, but they also receive suggestions from other qualified people such as professors of literature or linguistics from different colleges and universities and presidents of national literary societies. The winner is chosen by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy, who are all writers, literary scholars, and historians.

For the peace prize, you have to be a “qualified nominator” to submit a name. By “qualified nominator” we are referring to members of The Hague, government ministers, or former Nobel Peace Prize winners along with other experts, such as social sciences professors, director of peace research institutes, among others.

The winner of this prize is chosen by Norwegians instead of Swedes because of the specification that Alfred Nobel left in his will that the Nobel Peace Prize winner will be selected by a five-person committee chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. That’s why that ceremony is in Oslo instead of Stockholm.