Special Report

50 Surprising Historical Facts About the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel prize is one of the most prestigious awards in the world. Winning it is the culmination of one’s life work in seeking to better humankind in the areas of chemistry, economics, literature, peace, physics, and physiology or medicine. Of the six categories, the Nobel Peace Prize is probably the most anticipated. And at times, the award has been controversial.

The Nobel prizes were established by Swedish businessman and pacifist Alfred Nobel, who created a fund in his will before his death in 1896 to generate interest that will be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize is scheduled to be announced on Oct. 11, and 24/7 Wall St. is using this occasion to compile a list of 50 surprising facts about the prize. We reviewed a variety of sources to create our list, including the Nobel Prize website. There are 301 candidates for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize — 223 individuals and 78 organizations.

The five-member Nobel Committee — all Norwegian and chosen by the Norwegian Storting, or parliament — selects the Nobel prize winners. The committee sifts through nominations submitted by elected officials, peace group advocates, foreign policy experts, university professors, and former winners of the prize. All nominations are made online and submitted no later than Jan. 31. The winners are announced on the first Friday of the first full week of October.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 99 times since 1901. The recipients of the award are called laureates, which refers to those being acknowledged by a laurel wreath. This was an honor bestowed on winners of athletic and poetic competitions in ancient Greece.

Click here to see 50 surprising historical facts about the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the first years of the peace prize before World War I, it was often awarded to founders of organized peace movements. After WWI, it was presented to those seeking peace and justice through diplomacy and international treaties. Following World War II, the prize was awarded for efforts in arms control, democracy, and human rights. In the latter part of the 20th century, the Nobel Committee endeavored to consider people from many countries for the award. In the 21st century, the prize has been given to those raising awareness about threats to the environment. These are the countries that are doing the most and least to protect the environment.

Our list contains some of the greatest civil and human rights figures of the 20th century, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Surprisingly, Mahatma Gandhi, whose nonviolent path to Indian independence was an inspiration for King and Mandela, never won the Nobel Peace Prize. These are the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.