Nobel Awards in Chemistry - T. Vella-Zarb

Alfred Nobel
Nobel Awards in Chemistry

The Chemistry Medal
Obverse and Reverse Views

Compiled by Thomas Vella-Zarb from various sources. When you click on a recipient you mostly get a biography [mainly from the Nobel Page] or autobiography. Click the BACK button of your browser to come back here.

The First Nobel Prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901

The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be "annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833, and four years later his family moved to Russia. His father ran a successful St. Petersburg factory that built explosive mines and other military equipment. Educated in Russia, Paris, and the United States, Alfred Nobel proved a brilliant chemist. When his father's business faltered after the end of the Crimean War, Nobel returned to Sweden and set up a laboratory to experiment with explosives. In 1863, he invented a way to control the detonation of nitroglycerin, a highly volatile liquid that had been recently discovered but was previously regarded as too dangerous for use. Two years later, Nobel invented the blasting cap, an improved detonator that inaugurated the modern use of high explosives. Previously, the most dependable explosive was black powder, a form of gunpowder.

Nitroglycerin remained dangerous, however, and in 1864 Nobel's nitroglycerin factory blew up, killing his younger brother and several other people. Searching for a safer explosive, Nobel discovered in 1867 that the combination of nitroglycerin and a porous substance called kieselguhr produced a highly explosive mixture that was much safer to handle and use. Nobel christened his invention "dynamite," for the Greek word dynamis, meaning "power." Securing patents on dynamite, Nobel acquired a fortune as humanity put his invention to use in construction and warfare.

In 1875, Nobel created a more powerful form of dynamite, blasting gelatin, and in 1887 introduced ballistite, a smokeless nitroglycerin powder. Around that time, one of Nobel's brothers died in France, and French newspapers printed obituaries in which they mistook him for Alfred. One headline read, "The merchant of death is dead." Alfred Nobel in fact had pacifist tendencies and in his later years apparently developed strong misgivings about the impact of his inventions on the world. After he died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896, the majority of his estate went toward the creation of prizes to be given annually in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The portion of his will establishing the Nobel Peace Prize read, "[one award shall be given] to the person who has done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Exactly five years after his death, the first Nobel awards were presented.

Today, the Nobel Prizes are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world in their various fields. Notable winners have included Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela. Multiple leaders and organizations sometimes receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and multiple researchers often share the scientific awards for their joint discoveries. In 1968, a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was established by the Swedish national bank, Sveriges Riksbank, and first awarded in 1969.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decides the prizes in physics, chemistry, and economic science; the Swedish Royal Caroline Medico-Surgical Institute determines the physiology or medicine award; the Swedish Academy chooses literature; and a committee elected by the Norwegian parliament awards the peace prize. The Nobel Prizes are still presented annually on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. In 2006, each Nobel Prize carried a cash prize of nearly $1,400,000 and recipients also received a gold medal, as is the tradition.

Alfred Nobel made his fortune with his invention of dynamite. He wanted to give it away to help mankind. He made a will awarding prizes to five areas of Humanities - physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature - the will was, however, partly incomplete, so peace was added later. Nobel simply stated that prizes be given to those who, during the preceding year, "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" and that one part be given to the person who "shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement." Prizes have been awarded annually [with a few exceptions] on December 10 (the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death). Each Nobel Laureate receives a medal [above right], a hand-crafted diploma [with an individualized graphic and calligraphy], and a document confirming the prize amount (in 2000 this was 9,000,000 Swedish crowns, or about US $900,000.)

The medals for Chemistry were modelled by the Swedish sculptor and engraver Erik Lindberg. The front side of the Chemistry medals features a portrait of Alfred Nobel and the years of his birth and death in Latin - NAT-MDCCC XXXIII OB-MDCCC XCVI. The main inscription on the reverse side is: "Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes".

Up to 1980 the medals, each weighing approximately 200 g and with a diameter of 66 mm, were made of 23-karat gold. Since then they have been made of 18-karat green gold plated with 24-karat gold. Today the medals are cast by Myntverket - the Swedish Mint - in Eskilstuna.

The Nobel medals have had the same design since 1902.

1901 Jacobus Henricus van 't HoffNetherlands1852-08-30 - 1911-03-01 Discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and of the osmotic pressure in solutions
1902 Emil H. FischerGermany1852-10-09 - 1919-07-15 Synthetic studies in the area of sugar and purine groups
1903 Svante A. ArrheniusSweden1859-02-19 - 1927-10-02 Theory of electrolytic dissociation
1904 Sir William RamsayUnited Kingdom1852-10-02 - 1916-07-23 Discovery of the indifferent gaseous elements in air (noble gases)
1905 Adolf von BaeyerGermany1835-10-31 - 1917-08-20 Organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds
1906 Henri MoissanFrance1852-09-28 - 1907-02-20 Investigation and isolation of the element fluorine
1907 Eduard BuchnerGermany1860-05-20 - 1917-08-13 Biochemical studies, discovery of fermentation without cells
1908 Sir Ernest RutherfordUnited Kingdom1871-08-30 - 1937-10-19 Decay of the elements, chemistry of radioactive substances
1909 Wilhelm Ostwald Germany1853-09-02 - 1932-04-04 Catalysis, chemical equilibria and reaction rates
1910 Otto WallachGermany1847-03-27 - 1931-02-26 Alicyclic compounds
1911 Marie CurieFrance, Poland1867-11-07 - 1934-07-04 Discovery of radium and polonium
1912 Victor GrignardFrance1871-05-16 - 1935-12-13 Grignard's reagent
Paul SabatierFrance1854-11-05 - 1941-08-14 Hydrogenation of organic compounds in the presence of finely divided metals
1913 Alfred WernerSwitzerland1866-12-12 - 1919-11-15 Bonding relations of atoms in molecules (inorganic chemistry)
1914 Theodore W. RichardsUSA1868-01-31 - 1928-04-02 Determination of atomic weights
1915 Richard WillstätterGermany1872-08-13 - 1942-08-03 Investigation of plant pigments, particularly of chlorophyll
1916 Not Awarded
1917 Not Awarded
1918 Fritz HaberGermany1868-12-09 - 1934-01-29 Synthesis of ammonia from its elements
1919 Not Awarded
1920 Walther H. NernstGermany1864-06-25 - 1941-11-18 Studies on thermodynamics
1921 Frederick SoddyUnited Kingdom1877-09-02 - 1956-09-22 Chemistry of radioactive substances, occurrence and nature of the isotopes
1922 Francis W. AstonUnited Kingdom1877-09-01 - 1945-11-20 Discovery of a large number of isotopes, mass spectrograph
1923 Fritz PreglAustria1869-09-03 - 1930-12-13 Microanalysis of organic compounds
1924 Not Awarded
1925 Richard A. ZsigmondyGermany, Austria1865-04-01 - 1929-09-29 Colloid chemistry (ultramicroscope)
1926 Theodor SvedbergSweden1884-08-30 - 1971-02-26 Disperse systems (ultracentrifuge)
1927 Heinrich O. WielandGermany1877-06-04 - 1957-08-05 Constitution of bile acids
1928 Adolf WindausGermany1876-12-25 - 1959-06-09 Study of sterols and their relation with vitamins (vitamin D)
1929 Hans von Euler-ChelpinSweden, Germany1873-02-15 - 1964-11-06 Studies on fermentation of sugars and enzymes
Arthur HardenUnited Kingdom1861-10-12 - 1940-06-17
1930 Hans FischerGermany1881-07-27 - 1945-03-31 Studies on blood and plant pigments, synthesis of hemin
1931 Friedrich BergiusGermany1884-10-11 - 1949-03-30 Development of chemical high-pressure processes
Carl BoschGermany1874-08-27 - 1940-04-26
1932 Irving LangmuirUSA1881-01-31 - 1957-08-16 Surface chemistry
1933 Not Awarded
1934 Harold C. UreyUSA1893-04-29 - 1981-01-06 Discovery of heavy hydrogen (deuterium)
1935 Frédéric JoliotFrance1900-03-19 - 1958-08-14 Syntheses of new radioactive elements (artificial radioactivity)
Irène Joliot-CurieFrance1897-09-12 - 1956-03-17
1936 Peter J. W. DebyeGermany, Netherlands1884-03-24 - 1966-11-02 Studies on dipole moments and the diffraction of X rays and electron beams by gases
1937 Sir Walter N. HaworthUnited Kingdom1883-03-19 - 1950-03-19 Studies on carbohydrates and vitamin C
Paul KarrerSwitzerland1889-04-21 - 1971-06-18 Studies on carotenoids and flavins and vitamins A and B2
1938 Richard KuhnGermany1900-12-03 - 1967-07-31 Studies on carotenoids and vitamins
1939 Adolf F. J. ButenandtGermany 1903-03-24 - 1995-01-18 Studies on sexual hormones
Leopold Ruzicka Switzerland 1887-09-13 - 1976-09-26 Studies on polymethylenes and higher terpenes
1940 Not Awarded
1941 Not Awarded
1942 Not Awarded
1943 George de HevesyHungary1885-08-01 - 1966-07-05 Application of isotopes as indicators in the investigation chemical processes
1944 Otto HahnGermany 1879-03-08 - 1968-07-28 Discovery of the nuclear fission of atoms
1945 Artturi I. Virtanen Finland 1895-01-15 - 1973-11-11 Discoveries in the area of agricultural and food chemistry, method of preservation of fodder
1946 John H. NorthropUSA1891-07-05 - 1987-05-27 Preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in pure form
Wendell M. StanleyUSA 1904-08-16 - 1971-06-15
James B. SumnerUSA 1887-11-19 - 1955-08-12 Crystallizability of enzymes
1947 Sir Robert RobinsonUnited Kingdom1886-09-13 - 1975-02-08 Studies on alkaloids
1948 Arne W. K. TiseliusSweden 1902-08-10 - 1971-10-29 Analysis by means of electrophoresis and adsorption, discoveries about serum proteins
1949 William F. GiauqueUSA 1895-05-12 - 1982-03-28 Contributions to chemical thermodynamics, properties at extremely low temperatures (adiabatic demagnetization)
1950 Kurt AlderGermany 1902-07-10 - 1958-06-20 Development of the diene synthesis
Otto P. H. DielsGermany1876-01-23 - 1954-03-07
1951 Edwin M. McMillanUSA *1907-09-18 Discoveries in the chemistry of transuranium elements
Glenn Th. SeaborgUSA 1912-04-19 - 1999-02-25
1952 Archer J. P. MartinUnited Kingdom *1910-03-01 Invention of distribution chromatography
Richard L. M. SyngeUnited Kingdom 1914-10-28 - 1994-08-18
1953 Hermann StaudingerGermany1881-03-23 - 1965-09-08 Discoveries in the area of macromolecular chemistry
1954 Linus Carl PaulingUSA 1901-02-28 - 1994-08-19 Studies on the nature of the chemical bond (molecular structure of proteins)
1955 Vincent du VigneaudUSA 1901-05-18 - 1978-12-11 Synthesis of a polypeptide hormone
1956 Sir Cyril N. HinshelwoodUnited Kingdom1897-06-19 - 1967-10-09 Mechanisms of chemical reactions
Nikolai N. SemenovSoviet Union 1896-04-15 - 1986-09-25
1957 Sir Alexander R. ToddUnited Kingdom*1907-07-02 Studies on nucleotides and their coenzymes
1958 Frederick SangerUnited Kingdom *1918-08-13 Structure of proteins, especially of insulin
1959 Jaroslav HeyrovskýCzechoslovakia 1890-12-20 - 1967-03-27 Polarography
1960 Willard F. LibbyUSA1908-12-17 - 1980-09-08 Application of carbon 14 for age determinations (radiocarbon dating)
1961 Melvin CalvinUSA *1911-04-07 Studies on the assimilation of carbonic acid by plants (photosynthesis)
1962 John Cowdery KendrewUnited Kingdom *1917-03-24 Studies on the structures of globulin proteins
Max Ferdinand PerutzUnited Kingdom, Austria 1914-05-19 - 2002-02-06
1963 Giulio NattaItaly 1903-02-26 - 1979-05-02 Chemistry and technology of high polymers
Karl ZieglerGermany1898-11-26 - 1973-08-11
1964 Dorothy Crowfoot-HodgkinUnited Kingdom *1910-05-12 Structure determination of biologically important substances by means of X rays
1965 Robert Burns Woodward USA1917-04-10 - 1979-07-08 Syntheses of natural products
1966 Robert S. MullikenUSA 1896-06-07 - 1986-10-31 Studies on chemical bonds and the electron structure of molecules by means of the orbital method
1967 Manfred EigenGermany *1927-05-09 Investigations of extremely fast chemical reactions
George PorterUnited Kingdom *1920-12-06
Ronald G. W. Norrish United Kingdom1897-11-09 - 1978-06-07
1968 Lars OnsagerUSA, Norway 1903-11-27 - 1976-10-05 Studies on the thermodynamics of irreversible processes
1969 Odd HasselNorway 1897-05-17 - 1981-05-13 Development of the concept of conformation
Derek H. BartonUnited Kingdom *1918-09-08
1970 Luis F. LeloirArgentina *1906-09-06 Discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates
1971 Gerhard Herzberg Canada 1904-12-25 - 1999-03-03 Electron structure and geometry of molecules, particularly of free radicals (molecular spectroscopy)
1972 Christian B. AnfinsenUSA *1916-03-26 Studies on ribonuclease
Stanford MooreUSA 1913-09-04 - 1982-08-23
William H. SteinUSA 1911-06-25 - 1980-02-02 Studies on the active center of ribonuclease
1973 Ernst Otto FischerGermany *1918-11-10 Chemistry of metal-organic sandwich compounds
Geoffrey WilkinsonUnited Kingdom 1921-07-14 - 1996-09-26
1974 Paul J. FloryUSA 1910-06-19 - 1985-09-09 Physical chemistry of macromolecules
1975 John W. CornforthUnited Kingdom *1917-09-07 Stereochemistry of enzyme catalysis reactions
Vladimir PrelogSwitzerland, Yugoslavia 1906-07-23 - 1998-01-07 Studies on the stereochemistry of organic molecules and reactions
1976 William N. LipscombUSA *1919-12-09 Structure of boranes
1977 Ilya PrigogineBelgium 1917-01-25 - 2003-05-28 Contributions to the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, particularly to the theory of dissipative structures
1978 Peter D. MitchellUnited Kingdom *1920-09-29 Studies of biological energy transfer, development of the chemiosmotic theory
1979 Georg WittigGermany 1897-06-16 - 1987-08-26Development of (organic boron and phosphorous compounds)
Herbert C. BrownUSA *1912-05-22
1980 Paul BergUSA *1926-06-30 Studies on the biochemistry of nucleic acids, particularly hybrid DNA (technology of gene surgery)
Walter GilbertUSA *1932-03-21
Frederick SangerUnited Kingdom 1918-08-13 Determination of base sequences in nucleic acids
1981 Kenichi FukuiJapan *1918-10-04 Theories on the progress of chemical reactions (frontier orbital theory)
Roald HoffmannUSA *1937-07-18
1982 Aaron KlugUnited Kingdom *1926-08-11 Development of crystallographic methods for the elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid protein complexes
1983 Henry TaubeCanada *1915-11-30 Reaction mechanisms of electron transfer, especially with metal complexes
1984 Robert Bruce MerrifieldUSA *1921-07-15 Method for the preparation of peptides and proteins
1985 Herbert A. HauptmanUSA1917-02-14 Development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures
Jerome KarleUSA1918-06-18
1986 John C. PolanyiCanada*1929-01-23 Dynamics of chemical elementary processes
Dudley R. Herschbach USA *1932-06-18
Yuan Tseh LeeUSA *1936-11-29
1987 Donald J. CramUSA 1919-04-22 - 2001-06-27 Development of molecules with structurally specific interaction of high selectivity
Charles J. PedersenUSA 1904-10-03 - 1989-10-26
Jean-Marie LehnFrance *1939-09-30
1988 Johann DeisenhoferGermany *1943-09-30 Determination of the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction center
Robert HuberGermany *1937-02-20
Hartmut MichelGermany *1948-07-18
1989 Sidney AltmanCanada*1939-05-08 Discovery of the catalytic properties of ribonucleic acid (RNA)
Thomas Robert CechUSA *1947-12-08
1990 Elias James CoreyUSA *1928-07-12 Development of novel methods for the synthesis of complex natural compounds (retrosynthetic analysis)
1991 Richard Robert Ernst Switzerland *1933-08-14 Development of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR)
1992 Rudolph A. MarcusUSA *1923 Theories of electron transfer
1993 Kary Banks Mullis USA *1944 Invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
Michael SmithCanada *1932 Development of site specific mutagenesis
1994 George A. OlahUSA *1927 Carbocations
1995 Paul Crutzen Netherlands *1933Their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone
Mario Molina Mexico *1943
Frank Sherwood RowlandUSA *1927
1996 Robert F. Curl, Jr.USA *1933 Their discovery of fullerenes
Sir Harold W. KrotoUnited Kingdom *1939
Richard E. SmalleyUSA *1943
1997 Paul D. BoyerUSA *1918 Their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
John E. WalkerUnited Kingdom*1941
Jens C. SkouDenmark *1918 The first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+-ATPase
1998 Walter KohnUSA *1923 Walter Kohn for his development of the density-functional theory
John Pople for his development of computational methods in quantum chemistry (GAUSSIAN) computer programs
John A. PopleUnited Kingdom/USA *1925
1999 Ahmed H. ZewailUSA, Egypt *1946 His studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy
2000 Alan J. HeegerUSA *1936 The discovery and development of conductive polymers
Alan G. MacDiarmidUSA *1927
Hideki ShirakawaJapan *1936
2001 William S. KnowlesUSA *1917 Their work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions
Ryoji NoyoriJapan *1938
K. Barry SharplessUSA *1941 His work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions
2002 John B. FennUSA *1917 Their development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules
Koichi TanakaJapan *1959
Kurt WüthrichSwitzerland *1938 His development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules in solution
2003 Peter Agre USA *1949 The discovery of water channels in cell membranes
Roderick MacKinnonUSA*1956 Structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels in cell membranes
Aaron Ciechanover Israel *1947The discovery of a key way cells destroy unwanted proteins
Avram HershkoIsrael*1937
Irwin RoseUSA*1926
Yves Chauvinr France *1930The development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis
Robert H. GrubbsU.S.A.*1942
Richard R. SchrockU.S.A*1945
2006 Roger D. KornbergU.S.A*1947His studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription
2007Gerhard ErtlGermany*1936His studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces.
Osamu ShimomuraU.S.A. *1928Their discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP
Martin ChalfieU.S.A. *1947
Roger Y. TsienU.S.A. *1952
2009Venkatraman RamakrishnanU.K. *1952For studies of the structure and function of the ribosome
Thomas A. SteitzU.S.A. *1940
Ada E. YonathIsrael *1939

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