Monday, 12 September 2011

Inside the Nobel Museum

Inside the entrance of the Nobel Museum

Alfred Nobel's decision to bequeath the lion's share of his wealth to establishing a prize caused huge controversy in his native Sweden, but despite his own family opposing the establishment of the Nobel Prize, his enduring legacy has so far seen 543 of the awards handed out since it began 110 years ago.

The Nobel Museum in Stockholm chronicles the award's history, the founder's life, and his posthumous battle to set up the prize, with the awarders themselves refusing to do what he had requested in his will - it ended up taking five years before the first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901.

Although the museum was much smaller than I had expected, it managed to cram in a fair amount of interesting tidbits, and includes two auditoriums which run a continuous stream of engaging short films on previous Nobel prize winners.  The guided tour around the museum is excellent and highly recommended.

Some Nobel facts you might not know:

1) Alfred originally wanted to become a writer. Lucky for him, and us, that his father didn't let him pursue this passion by insisting he join the family business and become an engineer instead, as Alfred was no Shakespeare - Alfred's play Nemesis was considered so poor by his family that all but three copies of it were destroyed. Time has not made the play seem any better either.

2) The prize awarded in Economics is not a Nobel Prize, as it was not one of those fields mentioned in Alfred Nobel's will. It has been nicknamed the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, and is chosen by the same committee that selects the physics and chemistry prizes, but has only been awarded since 1969.

3) Some unlikely people have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin are among the nominees.

4) Speaking of unsuitable candidates, what about some less-than-deserving winners: Antonio Moniz won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Medicine for leukotomy, the brain-altering operation that was the forerunner of pre-frontal lobotomies.

5) Three Nobel Laureates have been under arrest at the time of the award. These are: German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese humans rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

Pictures taken by Melanie Hall.


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