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The Nobel Prize in Chemistry ( ) is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by a Nobel Committee that consists of five members elected by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The first Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 1901 to Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, of the Netherlandsmarker, "for his discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions." The award is presented in Stockholmmarker at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. The 2008 Nobel Prize was awarded to Osamu Shimomura, Roger Tsien and Marty Chalfie for their work on green fluorescent protein. They were awarded the prize amount of 10,000,000 SEK (slightly more than 1 million, or US$1.4 million). The 2009 Nobel Prize was awarded to Thomas Steitz, Ada Yonath and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan.

Award ceremony

The committee and institution serving as the selection board for the prize typically announce the names of the laureates in October. The prize is then awarded at formal ceremonies held annually on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death. "The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is when each Nobel Laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. The Nobel Laureate receives three things: a diploma, a medal and a document confirming the prize amount" ("What the Nobel Laureates Receive"). Later the Nobel Banquet is held in Stockholm City Hallmarker.

A maximum of three laureates and two different works may be selected. The award can be given to a maximum of three recipients per year. It consists of a gold medal, a diploma, and a cash grant.

Nomination and selection

Compared with some other prizes, the Nobel Prize nomination and selection process is long and rigorous, a key reason why it has become the most important prize in chemistry.

The Nobel Laureates in chemistry are selected by a committee that consists of five members elected by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In its first stage, several thousand people are asked to nominate candidates. These names are scrutinized and discussed by experts until only the winners remain. This slow and thorough process, is arguably what gives the prize its importance.

Forms, which amount to a personal and exclusive invitation, are sent to about three thousand selected individuals to invite them to submit nominations. The names of the nominees are never publicly announced, and neither are they told that they have been considered for the Prize. Nomination records are sealed for fifty years. In practice some nominees do become known. It is also common for publicists to make such a claim, founded or not.

The nominations are screened by committee, and a list is produced of approximately two hundred preliminary candidates. This list is forwarded to selected experts in the field. They remove all but approximately fifteen names. The committee submits a report with recommendations to the appropriate institution.

While posthumous nominations are not permitted, awards can occur if the individual died in the months between the nomination and the decision of the prize committee.

The award in chemistry requires the significance of achievements being recognized is "tested by time." In practice it means that the lag between the discovery and the award is typically on the order of 20 years and can be much longer. As a downside of this approach, not all scientists live long enough for their work to be recognized. Some important scientific discoveries are never considered for a Prize, as the discoverers may have died by the time the impact of their work is realized. For example, the contributions of Rosalind Franklin in discovering the structure of DNA: her x-ray crystallography citing the shape of DNA as a helix, were not realized until after her death, and the recipients of the prize were Watson, Crick, and Wilkins.

The Award

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry consists of a gold medallion (the Nobel Prize Medal for Physics), a diploma, and a monetary grant. The Nobel Prize Medals, which have been minted in Sweden since 1902, are registered trademarks of the Nobel Foundation. Their engraved designs are internationally-recognized symbols of the prestige of the Nobel Prize.

The front side (obverse) of the Nobel Prize Medals for Physics, Chemistry, Literature, and Physiology or Medicine (for the "Swedish Prizes") features the same engraved profile of Alfred Nobel with his name abbreviated as "Alfr. Nobel" to the left of his profile and the dates of his birth and death to the right of it (in capital letters and Roman numerals).

The reverse side of the medals for Physics and Chemistry is "The medal of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences," which "represents Nature in the form of a goddess resembling Isis, emerging from the clouds and holding in her arms a cornucopia. The veil which covers her cold and austere face is held up by the Genius of Science".

The grant is currently approximately 10 million SEK, slightly less than 1 million (US$1.4 million or £0.9 million ).


See also



  2. "What the Nobel Laureates Receive", accessed November 1, 2007.
  3. "The Nobel Prize Ceremonies",, accessed November 1, 2007.

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