Stockholm This Week
Scientists and nobility from around the world are making appearances in Stockholm, the city where Triple HQ is located, this week. The reason? The Nobel Prize week, of course! We already knew that the Nobel Prize is awarded to scientists who have managed to do something remarkable in the past year, but what is the history behind this prestigious prize?
Alfred Nobel, “The Merchant of Death”
Image: Copyright © The Nobel Foundation
December 10th is usually known in Stockholm as the “Nobel Day”. On that day, the Nobel Prize winners receive their prizes from the hands of the King of Sweden. But, who was Alfred Nobel? And, why do we every year award prestigious prizes bearing his name? In this article, you’ll find the answers to those questions and some more.
Alfred Nobel’s Life
Alfred Nobel was born in 1833 in Stockholm. He was interested in technology and became a successful chemist and engineer. Nobel invented the dynamite and patented it in 1867 thinking that his invention would make the world better. However, in 1888 a newspaper announced his death and stated as a headline: “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” Actually, it was not Alfred himself, but his brother who had died. This mistake by the newspaper made Alfred recognize that maybe he was not the good man he thought he was. At this time, Alfred was really wealthy and had around 90 factories in 20 countries. He decided to write his wills in which he specified that his capital should constitute a fund to be distributed every year “in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Nobel died in San Remo on December 10th 1896.
We had to wait 5 years after his death to see Nobel’s will come true and the presentation of the first prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine. What about the other fields? What about mathematics, for example? According to a rumor, Nobel never wished to have a prize for mathematics because his fiancé had an affair with a mathematician named Gösta Mittag-Leffler. However, this information is unfounded and the decision not to award a prize in mathematics might come from the fact that Nobel chose fields in which he was interested, and that, moreover, there was already at that time a similar international prize in mathematics created by the King of Sweden (by suggestion from … Mittag-Leffler). In 1968, a new prize was established: the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. In other words, a prize in economics. What about a seventh prize in a foreseeable future?
The Ceremony and the Banquet
Image: Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2016. Photo: Pi Frisk.
Each year, since 1926, on December 10th, the Stockholm Concert Hall houses the award ceremony, which is broadcasted worldwide. The only exception: the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo. After the ceremony, the winners and the guests gather in the City Hall’s Blue Hall for the banquet. The room is decorated with flowers sent by the city of San Remo where Nobel died. For the first banquet, in 1901, there were only 113 guests, all men. Today, some 1300 people take place in the Blue Hall, among them the Nobel Prize winners and their families as well as the members of the Swedish royal family. For such a great event, the preparations in the kitchen have to begin three days in advance. On the day of the ceremony, 210 waiters will take care of the guests.
Free Admission at Nobel Museum
If you did not get invited this year to the ceremony and/or the banquet, you are more than welcome to celebrate the day at the Nobel museum. Situated in the heart of Stockholm’s Old Town, it will open its doors for free on December 10th. The program includes short talks, a photo station to take pictures with Nobel Prize winners, crafts for children and a broadcasting of both ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo. If you want to know more about Nobel and the prizes, you can also follow me on my Triple activity in the Old Town and Södermalm. I hope to see you there!