Dr. Alfred Bernhard Nobel, 1833-1896, photo by Gosta Florman
Conferring Great Benefit to Mankind
Dr. Alfred Nobel, who died in December, 1896, left behind a will with some very strange provisions:
'The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.'
He declared that the money should be divided into five equal prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace-building.
Unsurprisingly, it took a couple of years of negotiations to determine how the money should be allocated and administrated. But in June, 1900, the Statutes of the new legatee, the Nobel Foundation, were promulgated by the Swedish and Norwegian King in Council (Oscar II) and the original Nobel Prizes were born.
The Nobel Prize in economics wasn't added until 1969. The previous year, the Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) had donated a large sum of money to the Nobel Foundation in celebration of the bank's 300th anniversary. The funds went to the formation of the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which has been awarded 42 times since.
The 2010 Laureates
The Nobel Foundation is the financial manager and public face of all the Nobel Institutions, but, in order to preserve the sanctity of the awards, the Foundation does not select the prize winners. Instead, they are selected by Prize-Awarding Institutions that are separate and independent from the Foundation and all government organizations or agencies.
Today, the Foundation announced this year's prize winner in Economics, making the list of 2010 Nobel Laureates complete:
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded jointly to Peter A. Diamond (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Dale T. Mortensen (Northwestern University) and Christopher A. Pissarides (London School of Economics) 'for their analysis of markets with search frictions.' The laureates developed an economic theory that can answer questions about markets with search costs like 'Why are so many people unemployed at the same time that there are a large number of job openings?' That's an important question indeed in the current labor market.
Perhaps the most controversial of this year's laureates is Liu Xiabo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner 'for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.' The award was controversial because Liu's currently serving an 11-year jail sentence in China for 'inciting subversion of state power' after he coauthored Charter 08, a manifesto on human rights in China published in December 2008 on the 60th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
China denounced Mr. Liu's nomination by the Norwegian Nobel Committee as an inappropriate move by the West to impose Western political values on the Chinese community, threatening to sever political ties with Norway even though the government has no say in the award. But this only strengthened the committee's resolve - they cited the widespread support in China for the Charter 08 when they announced Mr. Liu as the winner last week.
This year's Nobel Prize in Literature went to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa 'for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat.' Recent works by Mr. Vargas that have been translated into English include Wellspring, 2008, The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Miserables, 2007 and Touchstones: Essays on Literature, Art and Politics, 2007.
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Richard F. Heck (University of Delaware), Ei-ichi Negishi (Purdue University) and Akira Suzuki (Hokkaido University, Japan) 'for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.' Described as 'great art in a test tube,' the prize was awarded for the trio's development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling, which allows scientists to create complex carbon-based molecules in a tube.
The 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics is also a joint prize, awarded to Andre Geim (University of Manchester) and Konstantin Novoselov (University of Manchester) 'for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene.' Doctors Geim and Novoselov have shown that carbon that is that flat has 'exceptional properties' that originate in quantum physics.
This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Dr. Robert G. Edwards 'for the development of in vitro fertilization' (IVF). IVF therapy has made it possible for millions of infertile couples to successfully bear children, and it has led to the development of a whole new field of medicine dedicated to treating infertility.