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What we don’t know about the Nobel Prizes

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Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

Nobel Week began in Stockholm, during which the winners of the prestigious awards will be announced, the Nobel Foundation announced on its website until October 10 in Stockholm and Oslo to people who have worked “for the good of humanity”, as their creator has said.

That’s why AFP presented 5 interesting facts about them:

A reward for the living

Since 1974, the statutes of the Nobel Foundation have provided that the prize is not awarded posthumously, unless the laureate has died after his name was announced.

Before the usual rule was written down in black and white, only two deceased people were awarded, both Swedes – the poet Erik Axel Karlfeld (Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1931) and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld (Peace Laureate in 1961). died under unclear circumstances. There have also been cases where an award has not been given in honor of a deceased person, as in 1948 after Gandhi’s death. One of the more recent laureates will never have the opportunity to receive the famous phone call announcing the award: in 2011, Canadian Ralph Steinman won the prize for medicine, and three days earlier we learned of his death. But he remained on the list of winners.

A whole fortune to the Nobel medal

The Nobel Prizes have a monetary equivalent of ten million kroner per category (about €900,000 at current prices) and an 18-karat gold medal. Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, managed to turn gold into wealth for the benefit of Ukrainian children. In June, the 196-gram medal won in 2021 brought in $103.5 million, given by an anonymous philanthropist and donated to a UNICEF program. This is 21 times more than the previous record.

Misunderstanding the basis of the awards

On April 12, 1888, Alfred Nobel’s older brother, Ludwig, died in Cannes. But in “Figaro” makes a mistake and announces the death of Alfred on its first page with a devastating text: “A man who can hardly be defined as a benefactor of mankind, died yesterday at Cannes. He is Mr. Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.’

What anguish does this premature obituary cause Alfred? His wording for the selection of the laureates is of those who have contributed “to the good of mankind.” “But we can only imagine that,” because the incident is not mentioned in his correspondence, his biographer Ingrid Carlberg told AFP. Visitors who went to pay their respects at the inventor’s Paris home were surprised to be greeted by Alfred very much alive, as reported in Figaro the next day.

A 1903 Nobel laureate, he pioneered the theory of global warming

The multi-talented Swedish physicist and chemist Svante Arrhenius was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903 for his “theory of electrolyte dissociation”. But today his status as a pioneer is due to another pioneering work: in the late 19th century he was the first to formulate the theory that the burning of fossil fuels – at that time mainly coal – led to global warming by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to his calculations, doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide would warm the planet by five degrees – modern models already give a range of 2.6 and 3.9 degrees Celsius. Far from being suspicious of the ever-increasing amounts of fossil fuels humanity will consume, Arrhenius underestimates the rate at which this level will be reached, and predicts that such warming will occur as a result of human activity…within 3,000 years.

New competitive very generous rewards

With over 120 years of history and a name known around the world, the Nobel Prizes still have a lot to offer. But some people consider them a little old-fashioned, and the discoveries they choose are often old. The “Right Livelihood” award was established in 1980 by a wealthy German-Swedish, after the Nobel Foundation rejected his proposal to create two new categories – for environment and development. But the Nobel Prizes also found a new competitor from the rich Silicon Valley: the Breakthrough Prize. These Californian rivals to the authoritative Swedish committees, now called the “Oscars of science”, have three million dollars at their disposal, which is about three times more than the Nobel Prize

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