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What Is the Nobel Peace Prize?

by Scott Kacsmar
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The Nobel Peace Prize has been described as the most prestigious prize in the world. That may have some validity as most people have heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, but how many people are aware it is merely just 1-of-5 prizes handed out annually on behalf of the estate of Alfred Nobel?

Hard to top someone doing what they can for peace, but Nobel, in his will, specifically intended the award to go to the person “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

This makes the award inherently political, and it has gone to 27 organizations over the years, so it is not always awarded to just one person.

Who has the Nobel Peace Prize usually gone to, when did it start and who has surprisingly never won it? Before heading to the top-rated sportsbooks and wager on this year’s winner, we’ll answer these questions and more with a look at the history of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Who Was Alfred Nobel?

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a businessman, chemist, engineer and inventor. Nobel invented dynamite, one of his many contributions as he held 355 patents in his life.

Alfred Nobel

However, Nobel’s legacy lives on more than 120 years after his death thanks to his foresight in his will to establish the Nobel Prize institution. The goal was to annually recognize those who “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Establishing the Nobel Prizes From Nobel’s Will

While the Peace Prize is the most well-known, there are actually 5 main Nobel Prizes:

  • Chemistry
  • Literature
  • Peace
  • Physics
  • Physiology/Medicine

Given his life’s work, prizes for chemistry and physics were no-brainers. The inclusion of Peace was less clear as when he died in 1896, Nobel did not leave an explanation for that award.

In his will, Nobel wanted the Peace Prize to be decided by a committee of 5 people selected by the Norwegian Parliament. Fulfilling his wishes, the Parliament of Norway has appointed a 5-person panel known as the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and that is the group that decides who wins these awards.


However, as for the inclusion of the Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it was Nobel’s friendship with peace activist Bertha von Suttner that most influenced him to include the prize for peace. Suttner later became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 “for her audacity to oppose the horrors of war.”

The other thought is a peace prize was Nobel’s way of offsetting the fact that his most famous invention, dynamite, was a destructive force often used in violent ways. With the world headed to the 20th century without Nobel and with scientific advancements, he wanted to make sure someone’s virtuous effort to keep things peaceful would be recognized.

Thus, the Nobel Peace Prize was created.

When and Where Is the Nobel Peace Prize Awarded?

The Nobel Peace Prize is given out every December 10, the anniversary of the date that Nobel died in 1896. The 1st ceremony was held in 1901 and it is held annually in Oslo in front of the King of Norway.

There have been some years where the award was not given out for various reasons like World War I and II.


Who Won the First Nobel Peace Prize?

The first Nobel Peace Prize was held on December 10, 1901. The inaugural winners in 1901 were Henry Dunant of Switzerland and Frédéric Passy of France, who shared the prize money of 150,782 kronor, which is about $13,701 (USD).

Before you scoff, consider this was 1901. Adjusting for inflation, that would be just over $500,000. The prize money has only increased since.

What Does the Winner Receive?

Aside from the massive amount of prestige, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award prize, which has varied over time. In 2024, the expected prize money is 9 million SEK, which is roughly $827,000.

How Does the Nobel Peace Prize Differ From the Other Nobel Prizes?

There are a few ways in which the Nobel Peace Prize differs from the other 4 main Nobel Prizes:

  • Only the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out in Oslo, Norway while the other Nobel Prizes are done in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is the only prize that an organization can win rather than an individual person, and a total of 27 organizations have won.
  • Nineteen women have won the Nobel Peace Prize, more than any other Nobel Prize.

Notable Laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize

Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 104 times to 138 laureates, including 92 men, 19 women, and 27 organizations.

Here are some of the notable winners and facts about them:

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is the only 3-time winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Linus Pauling (United States) is still the only person to win 2 unshared Nobel Prizes – he won for Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.
  • At 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. She shared the award with India’s Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
  • Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, became the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient from the United States in 1906. Other U.S. presidents to win include Woodrow Wilson (1919), Jimmy Carter (2002) and Barack Obama (2009).
  • Five laureates were under arrest at the time of their award: Carl von Ossietzky, Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Xiaobo, Ales Bialiatski, and Narges Mohammadi.

Nobel Peace Prize Controversies

With the nature of the award involving a novel concept like peace, some feel it has been too political in choosing a winner, and some of the winner’s achievements are hard to quantify. This has led to some controversies over the years.

The 1973 winners were especially controversial as Henry Kissinger (United States) and Lê Đức Thọ (North Vietnam) shared the award “for jointly having negotiated a cease-fire in Vietnam in 1973.”

Kissinger’s legacy has long been controversial with many legitimate accusations of war crimes, and while Tho was the first Asian to win the award, he refused to accept it.

In 1939, a member of the Swedish Parliament actually nominated Adolf Hitler as a satirical nomination in response to the nomination of Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time. While Hitler obviously did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, he did win Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1938.

But perhaps the biggest controversy in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize is the omission of Mahatma Gandhi, who never won it. Gandhi was a nominee in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1947, and tragically, he was also nominated just a few days before his assassination in January 1948. But he never won the award.

In 1948, the Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded as “there was no suitable living candidate” that year. This has been viewed as a tribute to Gandhi, who members of the Nobel Committee have expressed regret at never honoring him with a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2006, Geir Lundestad, the Secretary of Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, “The greatest omission in our 106-year history is undoubtedly that Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize. Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace Prize, whether Nobel Committee can do without Gandhi is the question”.

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Scott Kacsmar
NFL football picks are Scott Kacsmar's expertise, serving as his main focus. He has contributed to various sports websites and blogs, such as NBC Sports, ESPN Insider, FiveThirtyEight, and, JoeWager. Originating from Pittsburgh, Scott maintains a love-hate connection with the Pirates.

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