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There are few things in the world that are universally held in esteem, but if there’s one prize that anyone in the world would be honored to receive, it’s the Nobel Prize. The six prizes are awarded yearly, but behind the niceties there are some amazing stories.
1. In 1939, Hitler was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. His nominator, a Swede named E.G.C. Brandt later said that it was satire.
2. If Hitler had won the prize that year, Brandt wouldn’t have been able to withdraw his nomination: the prize can never be revoked, no matter what you do later (or whether your research is later disproved).
3. One of the strictest rules of the prize is that it cannot be awarded posthumously. If someone dies after they have been chosen as the winner, but before they have been awarded the prize, it will still go to them, but any nominees who die during the decisions is removed from the running.
4. The Nobel Prize is a bit of a boy’s club. Only 5% of the 847 recipients have ever been women. The judges say that they don’t consider gender, and the results simply show the skew towards men in the fields of research.
5. No one is sure why, but as part of the stipulations for the prize Alfred Nobel stated that the prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Literature (and the later added Economics) should be awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, but that the Peace Prize should be awarded in Oslo, Norway.
6. Not only does the prize come with prestige, it also comes with cash worth about $1 million.
7. There are only two people who have voluntarily declined to accept the prize: Jean Paul Sartre for Literature and Le Duc Tho for Peace. Le Duc Tho said that he couldn’t accept the prize because he won it for his work in Vietnam and he believed there was no actual peace there.
8. The youngest Nobel Laureate is Malala Yousufzai at the age of 17 (Peace Prize), while the oldest was Leonid Hurwicz at age 90 (Economics).
9. In 1995, Robert Lucas won the prize for economics, and had to split the money with his ex-wife. Why? In her divorce settlement seven years previous she included a clause that said “Wife shall receive 50 percent of any Nobel Prize,” and expired October 31, 1995. If he had won just a year later, she wouldn’t have received any.
10. One of the more impressive families when it comes to Nobel Prizes is the Curies. Pierre and Marie won for Physics in 1901, Marie won for Chemistry in 1911, their daughter Irene and Irene’s husband Frederick won for Chemistry in 1935, and there other son-in-law Henry Labouisse accepted for UNICEF in 1965.
11. One person that many would assume had won the Peace Prize but who hasn’t is Mohandas Gandhi for his non-violent protests in India. He was nominated 5 times, but did not win any of those times. Just two days before the nominations in 1948 he was assassinated, which meant he couldn’t be nominated. That year the committee chose not to award a prize and said “there was no suitable living candidate,” referencing Gandhi.