Do the Nobel Prizes Still Make Sense in the 21st Century?

“The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances.

The will of the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes in 1895. The prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics and Physiology or Medicine were first awarded in 1901. Medals made before 1980 were struck in 23-carat gold, and later from 18-carat green gold plated with a 24-carat gold coating. Between 1901 and 2016, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 579 times to 911 people and organisations. With some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once, this makes a total of 23 organisations and 881 individuals.

The prize ceremonies take place annually in Stockholm, Sweden (with the exception of the peace prize, which is held in Oslo, Norway). Each recipient, or laureate, receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money that has been decided by the Nobel Foundation. (As of 2017, each prize was worth SEK 8,000,000 or about US$920,000, €823,000, £716,000, or CNY 6,630,000.) The Nobel Prize is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, as is the Prize in Economic Sciences.”

“A Nobel Prize cannot be awarded to more than three individuals, as laid out in the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation. As Norden acknowledges in the Chemistry World videos, however, “the fact is that the research group is often very integrated, and it’s difficult to put the point on one person or two or three persons.” Nonetheless, he thinks that awarding the prize to just “one person is ideal. … You make somebody an icon for representing something.” We’re a prize given to a “bigger group, it will lose its impact, and that would be sad.” The peace prize has gotten around the limitation by awarding the prize to an organization rather than an individual, and Norden says that the “physicists have been tempted … to give it to a whole institution,” such as CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics near Geneva, Switzerland, but the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the physics and chemistry prizes, “will not allow that.”