15 Facts About the Nobel Prize

1. Robert Lucas, winner of the 1995 economics prize for his work on the theory of "rational expectations," split his $1 million prize with his ex-wife. A clause in their divorce settlement from seven years earlier had stipulated that "wife shall receive 50 percent of any Nobel Prize." The clause expired on October 31, 1995. Had Lucas won any year after that, he would have kept the whole prize.

2. Physicist Lise Meitner, whose work helped lead to the discovery of nuclear fission, was reportedly nominated for the Nobel Prize 13 times without ever winning. This makes her the Dynasty of the Nobel Prize scene (the show was nominated for 24 Emmy Awards but never won). 

3. In 2007, two winners had a combined age of 177. At 90, professor Leonid Hurwicz is the oldest person to ever win (one-third of the Prize in Economics); at 87, writer Doris Lessing is the oldest woman (Literature).

4. DNA expert Kary Mullis "“ 1993 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "“ was scheduled to be a defense witness in O.J. Simpson's murder trial. However, Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck felt the prosecution's DNA case was already essentially destroyed, and he didn't want Mullis' personal life to distract jurors (read: he'd expressed an affinity for LSD and surfing.)

5. In the last 10 years, the Nobel Prize in Literature has gone for the first time to authors in Portugal, China, Trinidad & Tobago, Hungary, Austria and Turkey [source].

6. Nobel laureates you must know: Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Jimmy Carter, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett, Pierre & Marie Curie, Max Planck and Albert Einstein.

7. Big names who never won: Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Mangesh Hattikudur, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Paul Tagliabue, Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Edison and Mahatma Gandhi.

8. The following people refused the Prize:

Le Duc Tho was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Henry Kissinger for their roles in brokering a Vietnam cease fire at the Paris Peace Accords. Citing the absence of actual peace in Vietnam, Tho declined to accept.

Jean Paul Sartre waved off the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature. His explanation: "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form."

Afraid of Soviet retribution, Boris Pasternak declined to accept the 1958 Prize in Literature, which he'd earned for Doctor Zhivago. The Academy refused his refusal. "This refusal, of course, in no way alters the validity of the award. There remains only for the Academy, however, to announce with regret that the presentation of the Prize cannot take place."

Erik Axel Karlfeldt won for Literature in 1918. He did not accept because he was Secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize. He was given the award posthumously in 1931.

9. As part of his divorce settlement, Einstein's Nobel Prize money went to his ex-wife, Mileva Maric.

10. Winners without the greatest reputations:

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who won in 1976 for his research in human slow-virus infections, spent 19 months in jail after pleading guilty in 1997 to charges of child molestation.

Johannes Fibiger won in 1926 after discovering parasitic worms cause cancer "“ a breakthrough that turned out to not be true.

Yasser Arafat shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. This decision caused Nobel Committee member Kare Kristiansen to resign. "What consequences will result," he asked at the time, "when a terrorist with such a background is awarded the world's most prestigious prize?"

William Shockley won for Physics in 1956 for his role in the invention of the semiconductor. But his support of the eugenics movement alienated the scientific community. Shockley also donated sperm to the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank developed to spread humanity's best genes (Slate did a great series on this in 2001.)

11. The first Nobel Laureates collected 150,800 Swedish kronor (about $15,420 today). The stakes have been raised. This year's prize was $1.5 million "“ shared in the case of multiple winners.

12. The Curie family is a Nobel Prize machine, winning five: Pierre and Marie for Physics in 1901; Marie solo for Chemistry in 1911; daughter Irene and her husband Frederic Joliot-Curie for Chemistry in 1935; and Henry Labouisse, who was married to Pierre and Marie's daughter Eve, accepted on behalf of UNICEF in 1965.

13. Marie Curie's second prize was marred by scandal. Then a widow, Curie had an affair with a married scientist, Paul Langevin "“ a former pupil of Pierre Curie. Love letters were involved, eventually leading to a duel between Langevin and the editor of the newspaper that had printed them (no shots were actually fired.) When it was suggested that she not accept the prize, she wrote a shrewd letter, in which "she pointed out that she had been awarded the Prize for her discovery of radium and polonium, and that she could not accept the principle that appreciation of the value of scientific work should be influenced by slander concerning a researcher's private life."

14. Alfred Nobel "“ inventor of dynamite "“ may have been inspired to create the Nobel Prize after a premature obituary in a French newspaper called him a "merchant of death."

15. Nobel died on December 10, 1896. The formal awards ceremony is held in Stockholm each year on the anniversary of his death. The first awards show took place on December 10, 1901. These things take time to plan.

And in case you were wondering just how much of a say Alfred Nobel had in the prize, here's his will:

The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way:

The capital shall be invested by my executors in safe securities and shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical works by the Caroline Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

6 Fascinating Facts About Vincent Price

There’s more to Vincent Price than just his iconic horror movie roles.
There’s more to Vincent Price than just his iconic horror movie roles.
Photoshot/Getty Images

It’s basically impossible to talk about classic horror movies without mentioning at least one film starring Vincent Price. With his menacing voice, laugh, and presence, Price easily became a staple in Hollywood horror cinema. The actor may be known for House of Wax (1953), The Last Man on Earth (1964), and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), but he has more than 200 acting credits across film, television, and theater.

Although his contributions to the horror genre are truly unparalleled, few people know that there is much more to him beyond these performances. He once wrote that he is passionate about three things: work, art, and food. Here are six fascinating facts you may not know about Vincent Price.

1. Vincent Price initially studied for a master’s degree in Fine Arts.

Price graduated from Yale University with a degree in English and a minor in Art History. He taught at his alma mater for a year before entering the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London. Although he fully intended to study for a master’s degree in Fine Arts, he was drawn to theater and decided to become an actor instead.

2. A museum in East Los Angeles is named after Vincent Price.

In addition to being an actor, Price was also a well-respected art collector and consultant. In 1957, he and his then-wife Mary Grant donated 90 pieces of art to the East Los Angeles College (ELAC) because they wanted students to have “first-hand experiences with art.” The institution named the art gallery, now the Vincent Price Art Museum, in their honor. Price had recognized art’s significance in education ever since he was a student himself. As he once said, "A picture was worth a thousand words, even if I had to read 10 million words to get to see more pictures.”

3. Vincent Price was a major foodie.

Vincent Price was as talented in the kitchen as he was on the screen.Frank Barratt/Stringer/Getty Images

Price was born into a family of food businessmen, so it's perhaps no surprise that he embarked upon his own culinary adventures. He went on to earn a reputation as a gourmet cook, cementing his culinary legacy by authoring several cookbooks and hosting his own cooking television show, Cooking Price-Wise.

4. Tim Burton’s Vincent Price documentary remains incomplete and unreleased to this day.

Price was Tim Burton’s good friend, frequent collaborator, and childhood idol. During the filming of Edward Scissorhands (1990), Burton approached Price to discuss the idea of an independent documentary about the actor’s life. They shot some interviews at the ELAC, and the project was tentatively titled Conversations with Vincent.

After Price’s death, Burton wanted to complete the documentary, which he then renamed A Visit with Vincent. However, it never happened. Some say the film wasn’t released because it became too personal for Burton, while others believe studios refused to grant any budget for the project.

5. Vincent Price's daughter says he was bisexual.

“I am as close to certain as I can be that my dad had physically intimate relationships with men,” said his daughter Victoria Price in an exclusive interview with #Boom Magazine. He was also supportive of her when she came out to him. She recalled that he said, “You know, I know just how you feel because I have had these deep, loving relationships with men in my life and all my wives were jealous.”

6. Vincent Price’s voice is featured on a Disneyland attraction.

With a voice as iconic and distinctive as Price had, it’s no wonder Disneyland Paris hired him to record narration for their dark ride attraction, Phantom Manor. However, the audio was shortly replaced by a French narration, so only Price’s evil laugh remained. After a major renovation in 2019, Walt Disney Imagineering brought back his recordings and included previously unused material in the refurbished attraction.