Posts Tagged ‘Malala Yousafzai’

What happens when one comes across a bevy of super-brainy persons who ended up contributing something significant to the society at large?

For one, the sheer creativity and perseverance of such persons leaves one shaking one’s head in awe, admiration, and bafflement. One wonders as to from which plane of consciousness these persons were operating while making discoveries which have improved our lives. It also makes one realize how little one has achieved in one’s own life. A deep feeling of humility envelopes one. And yes, it motivates us lesser mortals to do something better in our own lives!

On a recent visit to Stockholm, your truly could visit the Nobel Prize Museum in the city. In the process, all the feelings mentioned above were experienced.

When Negativity Leads to Positivity

Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. He amassed a fortune during his lifetime, with most of his wealth coming from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous.

In 1888, Nobel was astonished to read his own obituary, titled “The merchant of death is dead”, in a French newspaper. In fact, it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died in an uncontrolled experiment relating to explosives. The article disconcerted Nobel and made him apprehensive about how he would be remembered.

Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. Inspired by the death of his brother, he composed the last one over a year before he died, signing it at the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895, bequeathing all his ‘remaining reliable assets’ to create the prestigious prize named after him. In his will, he wrote that he wanted to reward those who had ‘conferred the greatest benefit to humankind’.

On December 10, 1896, Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 63 years old then.

Owing to scepticism surrounding the will, it was not approved by the Norwegian Parliament until 26 April 1897.

Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901.

Nobel Prizes were originally awarded in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. In 1968, Sweden’s central bank funded the establishment of the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, to also be administered by the Nobel Foundation.

In 1905, the union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Till this day, except for the Peace Prize, the Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden, at the annual Prize Award Ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.

The Prize

The prize ceremonies take place annually. Each recipient (known as a “laureate”) receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a monetary award. In 2021, the Nobel Prize monetary award was 10,000,000 SEK.

The recipients’ lectures are normally held in the days prior to the award ceremony. The Peace Prize and its recipients’ lectures are presented at the annual Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, usually on December 10.

The award ceremonies and the associated banquets are major international events. One can secure an invitation to these only if one happens to know some of the laureates! I understand that these are now broadcast live.  

The Prizes awarded in Sweden’s ceremonies are held at the Stockholm Concert Hall, with the Nobel banquet following immediately at Stockholm City Hall.

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony has been held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute (1905–1946), at the auditorium of the University of Oslo (1947–1989), and at Oslo City Hall (1990–present).

The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm occurs when each Nobel laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of the King of Sweden. In Oslo, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee presents the Nobel Peace Prize in the presence of the King of Norway and the Norwegian royal family.

After the award ceremony in Sweden, a banquet is held in the Blue Hall at the Stockholm City Hall, which is attended by the Swedish Royal Family and around 1,300 guests. The Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held in Norway at the Oslo Grand Hotel after the award ceremony. Apart from the laureate, guests include the president of the Norwegian Parliament, on occasion the Swedish prime minister, and, since 2006, the King and Queen of Norway. In total, about 250 guests attend.

The Curious Case of India’s Apostle of Non-violence

Although Mahatma Gandhi, an icon of non-violence in the 20th century, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before he was assassinated on January 30, 1948, he was never awarded the prize, possibly due to the cordial relations between Norway and the United Kingdom.  

In 1948, the year of Gandhi’s death, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award that year on the grounds that “there was no suitable living candidate”.

In 1989, this omission was publicly regretted, when the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize, the chairman of the committee said that it was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”.

Geir Lundestad, 2006 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.

Display at the Museum

Besides the history of the Nobel Prize, the museum displays many gifts from many of the laureates. These include a letter from Albert Einstein confessing the inability of mathematical formulae to capture the nuances of human behaviour. There is a unique display of the kind of dresses used by celebrities while attending some of the banquets and many other details.

A guided tour lasting about 30 minutes shares interesting anecdotes from the lives of some of the laureates.

At the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai, is so far the youngest to have received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

The Cultural Outreach

Being a symbol of scientific or literary achievement which is recognisable worldwide, the Nobel Prize is often depicted in fiction. In my younger days, I recall having read The Prize, a novel by Irwing Wallace. There have been films like The Prize (1963), Nobel Son (2007), and The Wife (2017) about fictional Nobel laureates, as well as fictionalised accounts of stories surrounding real prizes such as Nobel Chor (The Nobel Thief), a 2012 film based on the theft of Rabindranath Tagore’s prize. In a series named Genius (2017) on Netflix, a meeting between Albert Einstein and Marie Curie at one of the Nobel Prize ceremonies was depicted.

Improving the World

The Nobel Prize shows that ideas can change the world. The courage, creativity and perseverance of the Nobel Laureates inspire us and give us hope for the future.

Such initiatives help create exciting encounters between people – people who dare to challenge the status quo, who want to ask new questions, think new thoughts and contribute to a better world.

(Sources: The Nobel Museum guided tour and website, Wikipedia)

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