On December 10, 1896, renowned Swedish chemist and inventor Alfred Nobel passed away at the age of 63. The previous year, Nobel completed his last will and testament, leaving the proceeds of his estate to the establishment of prizes for “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
In life, Nobel was a successful chemist who, following the death of his brother in a nitroglycerin production accident, was invented dynamite. Dynamite was significantly safer and more predictable than nitroglycerine and saw immediate adoption in mining and other applications throughout the world. Nobel’s interest in explosives, which started as a young boy, led to other advances in the area including the invention of gelignite and ballistite. Nobel’s inventions and advancements were critical outside of mining – particularly in transportation and construction.
Nobel was well traveled, and saw the economic potential of his inventions. He established laboratories and factories throughout the world, building significant personal wealth. In addition to being an enterprising scientist, Nobel also had a creative side, enjoying and writing his own poetry and other works. Based on his interests and skills, it is little surprise that the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Literature and Peace. It was, however, quite shocking that he left his estate to fund the prizes.
After overcoming the controversy of the will, as well as the initial shock at being named executors of Nobel’s will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist established the Nobel Foundation in 1900 to coordinate the prizes and finances. The will indicated that the honorees for each prize be selected by specific institutions – Physics and Chemistry by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Physiology or Medicine by the Karolinska Institutet, Literature by the Swedish Academy and the Peace Prize by a five member committee chosen by the Norwegian Parliament.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901 (see the dataset for winners), and every year until 1939 when the Second World War. In 1939, the Peace Prize was not awarded, in 1940 to 1942, no Prizes were awarded. In 1943, Prizes for the sciences were awarded and in the following year, all disciplines were awarded again. This continued until 1968, when the Swedish National Bank donated to the Nobel Foundation for the creation of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic studies. This Prize is controversial by some who do not recognize it as a true Nobel Prize as it was not mentioned in the will that chartered the Prizes.
The Nobel Prizes are prestigious with an incredible number of scientific, literary and peace pioneers being among the honored. There is quite a bit of history in this dataset. What can you create with it? Remember to post your viz to Twitter, tagging @TThrowbackThurs with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday.
This week's dataset comes from the official website of the Nobel Prize. The citation for the data is below:
Data is sourced directly from the website for the Nobel Prize. Small transformations were made as follows:
- Country of birth was broken into 2 separate columns: one for the name of the original country (i.e. USSR, West Germany, etc.), and a second for the name of the country as it currently lies in geopolitical boundaries.
- Affiliated institution was also broken into multiple columns: the institution name, cuty, state (where available) and country.
Additionally, a few notes about the source data
- The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to multiple organizations throughout the years. These organizations are denoted with gender of 'Organization,' they also do not have country of birth, age or in most cases insitution information
- Field information was only listed up until 2014 for most prizes.
- Motivation also has spotty availability, but is provided when available.
Information for this historical background was also sourced from the Nobel Prize website.