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December 10th might seem like an average day, but for the past 114 years it has held a special significance: It marks National Nobel Prize Day, when the newest crop of Nobel Prizewinners are feted in Oslo, Norway. But apart from hearing about the latest winners every year, how much do you actually know about the prestigious award and its history?
Regardless of the field or country of origin, Nobel Prize winners are responsible for some of the most stunning breakthroughs of the past century. They have helped create opportunities across the world and have been at the forefront of pioneering research that has fundamentally driven innovations and fueled the global economy.
Whether you’re a Nobel Prize buff or know next to nothing about the award, here are 11 fascinating facts about the Nobel Prize that you might not know.
1. The Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, who left much of his wealth to endow the prize.
2. In his will, Nobel specified that the eponymous award be given to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
3. It took five years after Nobel’s death in 1896 to award the first Nobel Prize, according to NobelPrize.org.
4. Nobel Prizes are bestowed each year in the following fields: Physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and economic sciences.
5. Nobel Prizes were originally only awarded for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. It wasn’t until 1969 that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the inaugural Prize in Economic Sciences, according to the University of Canterbury.
6. In the award’s 114-year history, 573 prizes have been awarded.
7. According to NobelPrize.org, 874 Laureates and 26 organizations comprise the 900 total Nobel Laureates who have received the prize. (It is common for prizes to be shared by one, two, or three people.)
8. In keeping with statutes of the Nobel Foundation, there have been years when prizes were not awarded. For instance, the Nobel Prize in Physics wasn’t awarded in 1916, 1931, 1934, 1940, 1941, and 1942.
9. Among all countries, the U.S. is far and away home to the most Nobel Prize recipients: According Telegraph, there have been 336 U.S. winners overall.
10. The Nobel Prize has gone to women 49 times in its history. Marie Curie is the only women to have received the award twice: According to NobelPrize.org, Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.
11. Nobel Prize winners have had a real and measured positive effect on the lives of people throughout the world. Take this year’s winner in economic sciences, Angus Deaton. CBS News reports that Deaton’s pioneering research that has given policymakers a window into better understanding consumer spending habits.