This year the Nobel prizes given out for world-class accomplishments in physics,
chemistry, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine are a century old.
Founder Alfred B. Nobel, a chemical engineer who became rich after inventing
dynamite, set aside a fortune in his will to establish prizes for those who have
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“conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Nobel died in 1896, and the first
prizes were awarded in 1901. The prize for economics was initiated by the Bank of
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Sweden in 1968.
Since their beginnings, the Nobels have become synonymous with making it to the
summit of achievement. Winners find themselves on a list that includes Albert
Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Marie Curie, and Alexander Fleming. The Nobel prizes that
were unveiled this week by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will be awarded
in December in Stockholm and Oslo in formal ceremonies sure to surpass all
Some anniversary observances have already begun. U.S. composer Steve Heitzeg has written a six-movement “Nobel Symphony,” commissioned by Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. It premiered earlier this month at the school’s annual conference highlighting Nobel laureates’ achievements. Also, the United States, Sweden, and Norway have printed postage stamps commemorating the anniversary, and Norway has begun minting a silver coin to mark the event.
Nobel prizes for 2001 in the following categories are reported in this issue and the next:
Physiology or medicine: Nobel prize: Physiology or medicine
Physics: Nobel prize: Physics
Chemistry: Nobel recognizes three for handy chemistry