October 6, 2013 / 1:30 PM / 6 years ago

Factbox: Alfred Nobel: the man and the prizes

(Reuters) - Here is a look at dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel and the annual prizes he established. The first of this year’s prizes will be awarded on Monday.


- An inventor and businessman who dabbled in writing plays and poetry, Nobel never married and was constantly on the move. French writer Victor Hugo called him “Europe’s richest vagabond”.

- He lived largely as a recluse and was prone to depression. Nobel had ascetic habits yet could be a courteous dinner host, a good listener and a wit.

- Nobel hoped that the destructiveness of dynamite, the 1866 invention that made him rich, would help bring an end to war.

- He was friends with a well-known peace campaigner, Bertha von Suttner. Some have speculated he was stricken by conscience when he read his own obituary, published by mistake in 1888 by French newspapers who had confused him with his brother. One sported the headline: “Le marchand de la mort est mort” (the merchant of death is dead).


- Nobel ordered in his will - contested by relatives - that most of his estate of 31 million Swedish crowns be invested in safe securities and income used for prizes to people “who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.

- He stipulated five categories for prizes: physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature and peace. A sixth, the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968 and funded by Sweden’s central bank.

- Between 1901 and 2012, the prizes have been awarded 555 times to 862 winners, of which 838 are individuals and 24 are organizations.

- Only 44 have been awarded to women. Just one, Marie Curie, was honored twice, with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

- Winners currently receive 8 million crowns ($1.26 million). The prize money was cut by 20 percent in 2012. Prizes were not awarded in some years, particularly during the World Wars.

Sources: Reuters/www.nobelprize.org

($1 = 6.3672 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit

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