What About Gandhi?

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist, who got rich from his discovery of dynamite. According to his will, the majority of Nobel’s fortune was put into a fund and the interest of that fund is what is given out as the Nobel Prizes. You can find out more about the prizes in our post “How Dynamite Recognised Peace”.

The Nobel Prizes took five years to go from a dream to a reality, with the first round of prizes being awarded on December 10th (to honour Nobel’s death) in 1901. The prize in that first year was 200,000 Swedish kroner, or roughly 200 times the average salary of a university professor. Now, the prize fund stands at approximately eight million kroner, or about 1.2 million Australian dollars.

Originally there were five prizes, one each in physics, chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, and peace. These are all awarded by Swedish institutions, with the exception of the Peace Prize, which is given out by the Norwegian Parliament (perhaps as a clever way to stabilise bonds between the two countries back in the day). A sixth prize was added in 1968 in the form of the Nobel Prize for Economics after a donation from the Swedish Central Bank.

So what’s this got to do with Gandhi?

By design, prizes can be shared, but by no more than three people, and no prizes are awarded posthumously. However, if a prize winner dies between the prize being announced and the actual award ceremony it is still valid. One almost-exception to this rule occurred in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Regretting having never acknowledged Gandhi with a prize, no Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in that year.

Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is quoted as saying, “Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace prize. Whether the Nobel committee can do without Gandhi is the question.”

So, despite, or perhaps because of poor international relations and some unfortunate explosions we now, 110 years on, are still able to recognise brilliant achievements throughout the world.

How do Nobel Laureates find out that they’ve won a prize? The ‘Magic Call’.


The featured image is in the public domain.