10 Things You Might Not Know About the Nobel Prize

Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor who created new types of explosives. He made millions, and bequeathed nearly all of his fortune to establishing the prizes named for him. Read on for some surprising facts about the Nobel Prizes, whose honorees in six categories are always dynamite in their fields.

1. A mistaken obituary gave Alfred Nobel the idea for the prizes.

The story goes that Alfred Nobel was inspired to establish his awards in 1864 after a French newspaper mistakenly ran his obituary, called "The merchant of death is dead." Nobel didn't want that to be his legacy, and began thinking of more productive ways to be remembered for posterity. (The obituary was supposed to be for Nobel's younger brother Emil, who died while experimenting with nitroglycerine in their father's factory.)

The Nobel Prizes are announced in October and awarded December 10 each year, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's actual death. He died of a stroke at the age of 63 in 1896.

2. One of the Nobel Prize ceremonies takes place in Norway.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo and presented by the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, while the other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm and presented by the King of Sweden. Alfred Nobel planned it that way in his will:

"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.

3. There's no Nobel Prize for economics.

Notice that Nobel didn't mention economics in his will: that's because the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences is not a "Nobel Prize." It's technically the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Sweden's central bank created the endowment in 1968.

4. The Nobel Prizes come with cash.

Nobel Prize winners take home a diploma, a gold medal, and some cold, hard cash. In 2019, winners of "full Nobel Prizes" are awarded 9 million Swedish kroner, or almost $910,000.

5. Organizations can win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Only individuals can be nominated for the Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, literature, and physics, as well as the economics prize. Recent organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize include the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2017), the European Union (2012), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007).

6. Up to three individuals can win each Nobel Prize.

For teams larger than three, the committee will choose who gets left out. If two people win, the prize money is split equally. If three people win, the awarding committee chooses how to divide the prize.

7. People don't know when they've been nominated.

Nobel Prize nomination records are kept sealed for 50 years after the award is given. Winners don't know they're nominated until they win. So go ahead, assume you almost won the Nobel Prize.

8. There are no posthumous Nobel Prize nominations.

Eleanor Roosevelt, James Joyce, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others will never be able to bask in the Nobel spotlight. Gandhi was this close to winning: he'd been nominated a number of times and had just been nominated a third time days before his 1948 assassination. Geir Lundestad, a former director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, called Gandhi's absence from the list of Nobel laureates "the greatest omission" in the prize's history. If you're awarded the Nobel Prize but die before the December 10 ceremony, however, you're still a winner.

9. Alfred Nobel originally intended to give awards for work from the preceding year.

That criteria occasionally meant honoring ideas in the sciences that weren't sufficiently tested or investigated. Case in point: Johannes Fibiger's 1926 discovery that parasitic worms allegedly caused cancer in rats. (They don't.) Now most scientific discoveries and innovations are honored after they've stood the test of time.

10. Evening wear is a must for Nobel laureates.

Nobel laureates are required to give a public lecture within six months of accepting their award. Most of them fulfill the obligation during Nobel Week in Stockholm. Then, at the end of the week, they get to party. The Nobel banquet includes live music, a three-course dinner, dancing, and a strict dress code. Men must wear white tie, consisting of "a black tailcoat with silk facings, sharply cut away at the front; black trousers with two rows of braid down each leg, white stiff-fronted shirt, white stiff wing collar attached to the shirt with collar studs, white bow tie, white low-cut waistcoat, black dress socks and black formal shoes." Women have it a little easier, with no restrictions on the color or design of their evening gowns. Long gloves and a shawl are optional.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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7 Overlooked Thanksgiving Rituals, According to Sociologists

Even what the dog eats takes on a special significance on Thanksgiving.
Even what the dog eats takes on a special significance on Thanksgiving.
JasonOndreicka/iStock

The carving of the turkey, the saying of the grace, the watching of the football. If a Martian anthropology student asked us to name some cultural rites of Thanksgiving, those would be the first few to come to mind. But students of anthropology know that a society is not always the best judge of its own customs.

The first major sociological study of Thanksgiving appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research in 1991. The authors, Melanie Wallendorf and Eric J. Arnould, conducted in-depth interviews with people about their experiences of the holiday. They also had 100 students take detailed field notes on their Thanksgiving celebrations, supplemented by photographs. The data analysis revealed some common events in the field notes that people rarely remarked on in the interviews. Here are some common Thanksgiving rituals you might not realize qualify as such.

1. Giving Job Advice

Teenagers are given a ritual status shift to the adult part of the family, not only through the move from the kids' table to the grownup table, but also through the career counseling spontaneously offered by aunts, uncles, and anyone else with wisdom to share.

2. Forgetting an Ingredient

Oh no! Someone forgot to put the evaporated milk in the pumpkin pie! As the authors of the Thanksgiving study state, "since there is no written liturgy to insure exact replication each year, sometimes things are forgotten." In the ritual pattern, the forgetting is followed by lamentation, reassurance, acceptance, and the restoration of comfortable stability. It reinforces the themes of abundance (we've got plenty even if not everything works out) and family togetherness (we can overcome obstacles).

3. Telling Disaster Stories of Thanksgivings Past

One day she'll laugh about this.cookelma/iStock

Remember that time we fried a turkey and burned the house down? Another way to reinforce the theme of family togetherness is to retell the stories of things that have gone wrong at Thanksgiving and then laugh about them. This ritual can turn ugly, however, if not everyone has gotten to the point where they find the disaster stories funny.

4. The Reappropriation of Store-Bought Items

Transfer a store-bought pie crust to a bigger pan, filling out the extra space with pieces of another store-bought pie crust, and it's not quite so pre-manufactured anymore. Put pineapple chunks in the Jello, and it becomes something done "our way." The theme of the importance of the "homemade" emerges in the ritual of slightly changing the convenience foods to make them less convenient.

5. The Pet’s Meal

The pet is fed special food while everyone looks on and takes photos. This ritual enacts the theme of inclusion also involved in the inviting of those with "nowhere else to go."

6. Putting Away the Leftovers

These leftovers will make delicious soup.smartstock/iStock

In some cultures, feasts are followed by a ritual destruction of the surplus. At Thanksgiving, the Puritan value of frugality is embodied in the wrapping and packing up of all the leftovers. Even in households in which cooking from scratch is rare, the turkey carcass may be saved for soup. No such concern for waste is exhibited toward the packaging, which does not come from "a labor of love" and is simply thrown away.

7. Taking a Walk

After the eating and the groaning and the belly patting, someone will suggest a walk and a group will form to take a stroll. Sometimes the walkers will simply do laps around the house, but they often head out into the world to get some air. There is usually no destination involved, just a desire to move and feel the satisfied quietness of abundance—and to make some room for dessert.