On Monday, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”
This year, the Nobel Prizes are being announced between October 7 and 14, in the following order: October 7 (Medicine), October 8 (Physics), October 9 (Chemistry), October 10 (Literature), October 11 (Peace), October 14 (Economics).
What is the Nobel Prize
Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite, in his last will and testament in 1895, gave the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Literature, and Peace, to be called the “Nobel Prizes”.
In 1968, the sixth award, the Prize in Economic Sciences was started by Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank.
According to the official Nobel Prize website, between 1901 and 2018, the Prizes have been awarded 590 times, the recipients during this period being 908 Laureates and 27 organisations.
The Nobel Prize consists of a Nobel Medal and Diploma, and a document confirming the prize amount.
The prize money
The awardees of the 2019 Nobel Prize will receive in prize money Swedish kronor (SEK) 9 million (approximately Rs 6.45 crore) for a full Prize.
In his will, Alfred Nobel dedicated most of his fortune, SEK 31 million at that time, for the Awards. This money was to be converted into a fund and invested in “safe securities.” The income from the investments was to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”.
How candidates are nominated
The Nobel Committees of four prize-awarding institutions every year invite thousands of members of academies, university professors, scientists, previous Nobel Laureates, and members of parliamentary assemblies among others to submit candidates for the Nobel Prizes for the coming year.
Per the Nobel website, the nominators are selected in such a way that as many countries and universities as possible are represented over time.
One cannot nominate himself/herself for a Nobel Prize.
The selection of candidates
The nomination processes for every year starts in September of the previous year and ends on January 31 (except the Nobel Peace Prize, nominations for which close on February 1). The Prizes are announced in October, and the Nobel Laureates receive their awards at The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on December 10 in Stockholm.
The names of the nominees cannot be revealed until 50 years later.
The institutions that choose winners
The Nobel Committees of the prize-awarding institutions are responsible for the selection of the candidates, the institutions being:
Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The Karolinska Institutet
Nobel Prize in Literature: The Swedish Academy
Nobel Peace Prize: A five-member Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting)
Prize in Economic Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Nobel Prize and India
The following Indians (or individuals of Indian origin) have been honoured with the Nobel: Rabindranath Tagore (Literature, 1913), C V Raman (Physics, 1930), Hargobind Khorana (Medicine, 1968), Mother Teresa (Peace, 1979), Subramanian Chandrashekhar (Physics, 1983), the Dalai Lama (Peace, 1989), Amartya Sen (Economics, 1998), Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009), and Kailash Satyarthi (Peace, 2014).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the chairmanship of R K Pachauri won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
The Nobel Prize website laments not giving the Peace Prize to Mahatma Gandhi. Under the section ‘Mahatma Gandhi, the missing laureate’, the website says: “Up to 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans. In retrospect, the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee may seem too narrow. Gandhi was very different from earlier Laureates. He was no real politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organiser of international peace congresses. He would have belonged to a new breed of Laureates.”
The legendary physicists Meghnad Saha and Satyendranath Bose are two other glaring Indian exclusions in the list of Nobel Laureates. Both Saha and Bose were nominated multiple times, but ignored by the Nobel Committee.