ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Sociology & Anthropology

History of The Nobel Prize and The Nobel Laureates

Updated on April 5, 2015
stuff4kids profile image

Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

Portrait of Alfred Nobel

A portrait of Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel (1833 - 1896) who left The Nobel Peace Prize as a legacy in his will.
A portrait of Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel (1833 - 1896) who left The Nobel Peace Prize as a legacy in his will. | Source

The Story of Alfred Nobel

The history of the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Laureates begins with the life and death of the Swedish scientist and inventor, Alfred Nobel.

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden on October 21, 1833.

His father was an engineer by profession and also an inventor in his own right. Unfortunately, his business struggled to make ends meet and not long after Alfred's birth, it was forced into closure.

Showing typical spirit, he moved his young family to Russia and set up a new business, providing equipment to the Russian Military.

At that point he had a wife and three sons to support. The Russian business flourished.

The young Alfred was educated at home by the best private tutors that his parents could afford.

The Early Life of Alfred Nobel

Young Alfred Nobel studied the natural sciences, literature and foreign languages.

He could both write, read and speak fluently in his native Swedish and Russian, French, English and German by the age of seventeen.

Later, his father decided he should study engineering and so he was sent to Paris, which was a world leader in the field at the time..

Nobel Prize Facts

Did you know...

The youngest prize winner was Lawrence Bragg - just 25 years old when he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915.

He studied chemical engineering. During that time he met a young chemist - an Italian by the name of Ascanio Sobrero. Sobrero had managed to invent an extremely volatile explosive called nitroglycerine.

He showed this substance to Alfred Nobel, explaining that while it had been an interesting chemical study to produce it, he considered it to be too dangerous to serve any practical use.

However, Alfred thought otherwise and started to conduct experiments with the substance. His experiments would lead to the invention of a material that would have wide-reaching consequences in both military and civilian applications

Alfred Nobel's Laboratory

A reconstruction of the laboratory of Alfred Nobel.
A reconstruction of the laboratory of Alfred Nobel. | Source

Alfred Nobel's Return to Sweden

When he had completed his studies in Paris, he returned to Russia.

Nobel Prize Facts

Did you know...

The oldest Nobel Laureate was Leonid Hurwicz, awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2007 at the age of 90 years old.

There, he explained to his father about the substance that his Italian friend had invented and together they began to explore and experiment with it in the hope of developing something that would have a commercial application.

During this time many of the experiments went disastrously wrong - even resulting in the accidental death of his youngest brother, Emil.

Shortly after this tragic event, the two elder brothers remained in Russia to continue developing the thriving business that their father had established there and the rest of the family, including Alfred, returned home to Sweden.

Alfred Nobel and the Invention of Dynamite

Despite the horrifying consequences of his experiments in Russia, Alfred continued to work with nitroglycerine.

Eventually, he managed to create an explosive substance that was less volatile and more controllable while still retaining the potency per quantity of the original substance.

In 1886, he revealed the results of his many experiments. He called the stuff, dynamite.

Not long after he put the last piece of the puzzle together and invented a detonator that could be used to ignite the explosive from a safe distance.

The Invention of Dynamite

The laboratory in which Alfred Nobel first developed dynamite, reconstructed at the Nobel Museum.
The laboratory in which Alfred Nobel first developed dynamite, reconstructed at the Nobel Museum. | Source

Dynamite and the Death of Alfred Nobel

Having learned some business acumen from his father, he quickly patented the dynamite and set about developing a commercial enterprise.

While there was some demand from the military, it was not widely used in warfare as the dynamite had to be set at the point of the desired explosion and then detonated after retreating from the spot, leaving a fuse trail.

However, the uses in industry were soon evident and within a few short years, Alfred had grown to be a very rich man.

The demand for dynamite was high. It was used in quarries, excavations, tunnel building and blasting away great swathes of rock to make way for highways and rail roads which were increasingly needed for the transit not only of the public but heavy goods and merchandise.

Nobel Prize Facts

Did you know...

Barrack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.

Alfred Nobel: His Wealth and Legacy

His business was a phenomenal success and he set up ninety factories for dynamite production in some twenty different countries around the world.

Before his eventual death at his home in San Remo, in the north of Italy, he had amassed what would be considered an incredible fortune even by today's standards.

He never married and remained obsessed with all kinds of chemical experiments. He eventually died peacefully on December 10, 1896.

In his will he asked that a prize be awarded annually to the person or people responsible for the most important contribution to Physics, Chemistry and Medicine.

In addition, he requested a prize to be granted for the greatest achievement in Literature and a Peace Prize for the most significant work to develop peaceful relations between nations.

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in the year 1901, five years after his death.

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony

The award ceremony for the giving of the Nobel Prizes takes place in Sweden on December 10th each year, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.

Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm

The Nobel Prize Ceremony is held every year in Stockholm.
The Nobel Prize Ceremony is held every year in Stockholm. | Source

The prizes are awarded by the King of Sweden.

Each Nobel Laureate, as the prize-winners are known, receives a medal bearing the portrait of Alfred Nobel, a diploma and a sum of money in Swedish Kronor.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on the same anniversary but is given in Oslo, Norway.

Although not a part of the original legacy, in 1969, the prize for Economic Sciences was added to the award list.

The only times that no prizes have been awarded were during the first and second world wars when the conflict rendered the prize-giving a practical impossibility.

Famous Nobel Laureates

There have been many Nobel Laureates over the years and across all the prizes.

While most laureates never become household names, among their company are some of the most famous names in modern history.

Listed below are some of the most famous - and in some cases perhaps controversial - Nobel Laureates of more recent times.

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007
Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 | Source

Nobel Peace prize 2007: Al Gore

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in 2007.

The judges said that they had chosen to award the peace prize to the IPCC and Al Gore for

"their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change"

Those wishing to deny the evidence for anthropogenic climate change (typically a consequence of religious bigotry, ignorance of the science or economic self-interest) and so wishing to deny the evidence for anthropogenic climate change, of course found this award to be controversial. Others wondered how things might have been if Al gore had ever had the chance to be president.

Al Gore's Nobel peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Dr Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
Dr Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 | Source

Nobel Peace Prize 1964: Dr Martin Luther King

When Dr King was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1964, he was only thirty-five years old and at the time the youngest man to have won the Prize.

He was awarded the prize for his work in furthering civil rights.

In a typical gesture of commitment and selfless generosity, Dr. King handed the prize money of $54,123 to assist the fulfillment of the movement for civil rights.

He was assassinated on the balcony of his Memphis hotel room in 1968.

At the news of his death, the entire nation went into mourning.

Below you can see the famous and moving speech that Robert Kennedy made when he announced Dr. King's death.

Robert Kennedy announces the death of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Martin Luther King

Albert Einstein was made a Nobel Laureate for his contribution to Theoretical Physics. The award was granted in 1921.
Albert Einstein was made a Nobel Laureate for his contribution to Theoretical Physics. The award was granted in 1921. | Source

Nobel Prize for Physics 1921: Albert Einstein

It should be little surprise to discover that Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

The committee write that the prize had been awarded to this possibly most famous and influential of all scientists after Darwin, because of

" his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".


Here below you can see and hear the great man giving part of a lecture to the Nobel prize committee. There is no footage of him giving his acceptance speech as cinematography was still in its infancy and television had not yet been invented in 1921.

Albert Einstein Gives Nobel Prize Lecture

Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his effort to bring an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his effort to bring an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. | Source

Nobel Peace Prize 1993: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary human rights activist who sought an end to the racial segregation regime of Apartheid in South Africa, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the then South African President, F. W. de Klerk.

The Nobel Prize Committee stated that the award had been made for

"their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa"


There were others involved in this great struggle, of course - not least Steven Biko, but it is doubtful that a democratic South Africa would have been possible without the figurehead and charismatic leadership of Nelson Mandela.

Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela Celebrates The Peace Prize

Sir Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.
Sir Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. | Source

Nobel Prize for Literature 1953: Sir Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill received The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

Perhaps best known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War, he was also an established and much admired author of historical, biographical and auto-biographical works.

The Nobel Prize Committee awarded him the prize for

"his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values".

Below you can hear a typical Churchill speech in which he demonstrates his skills in classical oratorical style.

Nobel Prize Poll (sorry - no prizes!)

Did you learn something new here?

See results

The Future of the Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize has recently been the focus of a storm of controversy surrounding its validity and there is an on-going debate about how the prizes should be awarded.

There have been any number of controversial decisions regarding the giving of Nobel prizes. Equally, there are some, such as the award of a Peace Prize to child educational activist, Malala Yusafzai, that have been widely agreed and supported.

Nevertheless, the legacy remains and I think we can be confident that there will be many, many more Nobel Laureates to come.

Find out more: Nobel Prize Resources

If you want to find out more about the Nobel Prizes and the Laureates past and present, here are some great resources you can explore to go deeper into it.

Original, unique articles for kids, parents and teachers, written by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn.
Original, unique articles for kids, parents and teachers, written by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn.

About the Author...

Articles at stuff4kids are written exclusively by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn. Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of professional and informal settings. She now specializes in writing and publishing valuable resources for use in educational contexts.

You are welcome to refer to these pages on your own site so long as you include a live link and the copyright attribution. Copying and pasting the article content itself, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. All articles on this subdomain (http://stuff4kids.hubpages.com) are original, unique content and all rights remain with the author.

Read more here.

One Question Quiz


view quiz statistics

© 2013 Amanda Littlejohn

Leave a comment! I'd love to know what you think...

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 20 months ago

      Hi firstcookbooklady!

      Thanks for your fascinating comment - that's a really interesting part of your family history! Thank you so much for sharing it here.

      :)

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 22 months ago from Minnesota

      My grandfather's brother, Torbern Fegraeus, worked with the Nobel Brothers in Russia. He was a geologist.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi johnr54 and thank you so much for your comment.

      Amazing that one of your classmates is up for the Prize - I wonder if he was always an academic by nature or just found his passion for physics later in life?

      Thanks again for your kind comment.

      Bless :)

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Texas

      Very timely that I read this hub now as one of my high school classmates was on the Nobel prize winning Physics team for the Higgs Bosom particle. Fun to connect the dots! Great information given in an easy to read format. Voted up and interesting.

    • jeugenejohn profile image

      jeugenejohn 4 years ago from Kerala

      Interesting hub indeed. Learned something new.

    • Thief12 profile image

      Thief12 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great hub! Congrats on HOTD

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thanks FlourishAnyway,

      Your kind comments are very encouraging.

      Bless you :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Fabulous job in not only your writing but also your layout/visual presentation. Voted way up and sharing.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thanks everyone for your kind comments. And an especial thank you to Marie Flint for pointing out the grammatical error - that is now corrected and a couple of others that had slipped under my radar. I'll certainly look into adding a table, too.

      Bless you. :)

    • Edjanse profile image

      Ambiga Jeyaratnaraja 4 years ago from India

      He is awesome. And you are awesome as u wrote about him. :)

      Interesting one.

    • cheeluarv profile image

      cheeluarv 4 years ago from INDIA

      Congrats for Hub of the day,very useful hub with detailed information on Nobel and Nobel prize winners.voted up.

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Cool! I learned lots reading this. I never really thought to figure out where exactly the Nobel Prize came from...now I know! :)

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 4 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Outstanding Hub.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      I found this hub very interesting.

      Gained a lot of new information

      Thanks for sharing

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      The title in itself deserves Hub of the Day.

      I was unaware that President Obama had received a Nobel Peace Prize. In spite of criticism expressed about his policies, I felt he had an ability in foreign relations. The award confirms my perception.

      Before declaring a major in English, I thought I would study in the sciences. While I tend to debunk the scientific method, I admire the minds of the great scientific and mathematical thinkers.

      Einstein's prize money, by the way, went to his wife, who modestly lived on it as a tenant landlord of an apartment building and finished raising their four sons.

      In watching a documentary on Einstein, he typically sat for hours by himself in a little vacant room with only a notepad to write down his mathematical formulas. (He concentrated so intensely, it's a wonder he ever had any children. The social life of the family must have suffered.)

      Editorial tip: December 10th, 1896 (delete "th" whenever day is followed by the year. We say it, but don't write it. You did it correctly in paragraph 2.)

      Thank you for researching an interesting topic. You were fortunate to have an abundance of material. A table, I think, would have worked nicely into the hub showing the year, recipient(s), and focus of their work. You could have focused on, say, the ten or twelve most recent recipients.

      Congratulations!

    • profile image

      Martha S. Ginyard 4 years ago

      I never learned about all of these things before! Thanks for the post.

    • profile image

      Karen A. Moore 4 years ago

      What a great and informative read! I enjoyed it so much.

    • cheeluarv profile image

      cheeluarv 4 years ago from INDIA

      Very interesting,thank you for the detailed information on Nobel and Nobel prize winners.Voted up as interesting.

    • profile image

      Benjamin Chege 4 years ago

      Hi stuff4kids. Voted up and beautiful. What a death wish and legacy to leave? Alfred Nobel must have really been proud of what he stood for him to leave his wealth for that purpose. The Nobel prize has surely changed the world and that is a great achievement for the founder.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thanks Charlotte, great that you enjoyed this!

      Yes, the reconstructions of his laboratory are really interesting. They are from the Nobel Museum.

      Thanks again for your comment. Bless you :)

    • profile image

      Charlotte 4 years ago

      Interesting. I liked the pictures of his laboratory.