The Nobel Foundation (Swedish: Nobelstiftelsen) is a private institution founded on 29 June 1900 to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes.[2] The foundation is based on the last will of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.[3]

Nobel Foundation
Formation29 June 1900; 124 years ago (29 June 1900)
HeadquartersStockholm, Sweden

It also holds Nobel Symposia on important breakthroughs in science and topics of cultural or social significance.



Alfred Nobel (Alfred Bernhard Nobel; born 21 October 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden) was a chemist, engineer, innovator, armaments manufacturer and the inventor of dynamite. He owned Bofors, a major armaments manufacturer, which he had redirected from its original business as an iron and steel mill. Nobel held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous. Nobel amassed a sizeable personal fortune during his lifetime, thanks mostly to this invention.[4] In 1896 Nobel died of a stroke[5] in his villa in San Remo, Italy where he had lived his final years.[6][7][8]

Nobel's will expressed a request, to the surprise of many,[7] that his money be used for prizes in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine and literature.[8][9] Though Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime, the last was written a little over a year before he died, and signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895.[10] Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million Swedish kronor, to establish and endow the five Nobel Prizes.[11] (As of 2024 that equates to 266 million US dollars.)

Alfred Nobel's will from 25 November 1895

The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way:

The capital shall be invested by my executors in safe securities and shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical works by Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my expressed wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.

— Alfred Nobel, Alfred Nobel's Will[7][12]

The executors of his will were Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist who formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel's fortune and organize the prizes.[13] Although Nobel's will established the prizes, his plan was incomplete and, because of various other hurdles, it took five years before the Nobel Foundation could be established and the first prizes could be awarded on 10 December 1901 to, among others, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen.[7][14][15] As of 31 December 2020, the assets controlled by the Nobel Foundation amounted to 5.2 billion Swedish kronor (approx. US$630 million as of 31 December 2020).[6][16]

The Nobel Foundation

Portrait of Alfred Nobel by Gösta Florman

The Nobel Foundation was founded as a private organisation on 29 June 1900 specifically to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes.[17] It is based on Nobel's last will and testament.[3] At the time Nobel's will led to much skepticism and criticism and thus it was not until 26 April 1897 that his will was approved by the Storting.[18] Soon thereafter they appointed the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that was to award the Peace Prize. Shortly after, the other prize-awarding organizations followed; Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June.[19][20] In 1900 the Nobel Foundation's newly created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II.[7][13]

In 1905 the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved which meant the responsibility for awarding Nobel Prizes was split between the two countries. Norway's Nobel Committee became the awarder of the Peace Prize while Sweden became the awarder of the other prizes.[13][18]

In accordance with Nobel's will, the primary task of the Nobel Foundation is to manage the fortune Nobel left after him in a fund.[6][13] The Nobel Foundation also represents the Nobel Prize to the outside world and takes charge of informal activities and issues related to the awarding of the Nobel Prizes.[citation needed] The Nobel Foundation is not involved in the process of selecting the Nobel laureates.[13][21] The Nobel Foundation invests money to maintain a funding base for the prizes and the administrative activities. The Nobel Foundation is exempt from all taxes in Sweden (since 1946) and from investment taxes in the United States (since 1953).[22] At the beginning of the 1980s the award money was 1 million SEK but in 2008 the award money had increased to 10 million SEK.[18][23]

According to the statutes the foundation should consist of a Board of five men, with its seat in Stockholm. The Chairman of the board should be appointed by the King in Council.[24] The other four members should be appointed by the trustees of the prize-awarding institutions. A deputy director should be appointed by the King in Council and two deputies for the other members appointed by the trustees. Since 1995 all members of the board have been chosen by the trustees and the executive director and the deputy director appointed by the board itself.[24]

Apart from the board, the Nobel Foundation is made up of the prize-awarding institutions (the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Assembly, the Swedish Academy and the Norwegian Nobel Committee), the trustees of the prize-awarding institutions and auditors.[18][24]

Nobel Symposia


In 1965, the foundation initiated the Nobel Symposia, a program that holds symposia "devoted to areas of science where breakthroughs around the world are occurring or deal with other topics of primary cultural or social significance."[25] The symposia has covered topics such as prostaglandins, chemical kinetics, diabetes mellitus, string theory, cosmology, and the Cold War in the 1980s.[26] The Nobel Symposium Committee consists of members from the Nobel Committees in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine; the Prize Committee for Economics; the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation; and the Wallenberg Foundation.[25]

Other Nobel prizes announced by members of the Nobel family


In 2007, the Nobel Charitable Trust, founded by Michael Nobel, Gustaf Nobel, Peter Nobel, and Philip Nobel, announced their plans to establish a new Nobel prize, the Michael Nobel Energy Award, that will award innovations in alternative energy technology. It will be the first new Nobel prize established by the Nobel family since Alfred Nobel established his prizes. However, it will be awarded by the Nobel Charitable Trust and not by the Nobel Foundation, although both are organisations founded by the Nobel family.[27][28]

The plan was announced at nanoTX 07. The Nobel Foundation quickly reacted by threatening legal action for "clear misuse of the reputation and goodwill of the Nobel Prize and the associations of integrity and eminence that has been created over time and through the efforts of the Nobel Committees".[29] The director, Michael Sohlman, of the Nobel Foundation and the elected head of the Nobel family disapproved to the institution of the so-called 'Dr. Michael Nobel Award' as well as the Nobel Charitable Trust (NCT) and Nobel Family Benevolent society.[30]

See also



  1. ^ "Nobelstiftelsen Verksamhetsberättelse 2013" (PDF). (in Swedish). Nobel Foundation.
  2. ^ Lemmel, Birgitta (29 June 2000). "The Nobel Foundation: A Century of Growth and Change". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b "The Nobel Foundation". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 19 December 2010. The Nobel Foundation is a private institution established in 1900 based on the will of Alfred Nobel. The Foundation manages the assets made available through the will for the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. It represents the Nobel Institutions externally and administers informational activities and arrangements surrounding the presentation of the Nobel Prize.
  4. ^ "Biography of Alfred Nobel – Succeed through Studying Biographies". School for Champions. 8 December 2001. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Alfred Nobel's final years in Sanremo". Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Si-Facts_FS15b_ENG.bak" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e AFP, "Alfred Nobel's last will and testament" Archived 9 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine, The Local(5 October 2009): accessed 14 January 2009.
  8. ^ a b "History – Historic Figures: Alfred Nobel (1833–1896)". BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Guide to Nobel Prize". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  10. ^ "The Nobel Foundation and its Role for Modern Day Science". Metapress. 1981. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  11. ^ "The Will of Alfred Nobel", Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  12. ^ Alfred Nobel|"Alfred Nobel's Will", Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 15 February 2007. (English version).
  13. ^ a b c d e "Nobel Prize" (2007), in Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 January 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica:

    After Nobel's death, the Nobel Foundation was set up to carry out the provisions of his will and to administer his funds. In his will, he had stipulated that four different institutions—three Swedish and one Norwegian—should award the prizes. From Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences confers the prizes for physics, chemistry, and economics, the Karolinska Institute confers the prize for physiology or medicine, and the Swedish Academy confers the prize for literature. The Norwegian Nobel Committee based in Oslo confers the prize for peace. The Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and functional administrator of the funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize-awarding institutions, but it is not concerned with the prize deliberations or decisions, which rest exclusively with the four institutions.

  14. ^ "All Nobel Laureates". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  15. ^ "First Nobel Prizes: December 10, 1901", This Day in History[permanent dead link], The History Channel. Retrieved 30 July 2006.
  16. ^ "Financial Management" (PDF). Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  17. ^ Lemmel, Birgitta (29 June 2007). "The Nobel Foundation: A Century of Growth and Change". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  18. ^ a b c d "The Nobel Foundation – History". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  19. ^ "Nobel Prize History –". 13 October 1999. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  20. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Nobel Foundation (Scandinavian organization) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  21. ^ Feldman, Burton (2000). The Nobel prize: a history of genius ... – Google Böcker. ISBN 9781559705929. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  22. ^ "The Nobel Foundation – Financial Management". Nobel Foundation. 31 December 2008. Archived from the original on 16 July 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  23. ^ [1] Archived 25 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ a b c "Statutes of the Foundation". Nobel Archived from the original on 13 June 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  25. ^ a b "Nobel Symposia". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  26. ^ "Complete List of Nobel Symposia from 1965 – present". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 14 May 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  27. ^ Nobel, Philip (9 October 2007). "Michael Nobel Energy Award". Archived from the original on 9 November 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  28. ^ Nobel, Philip (9 October 2007). "Statement from the Nobel Charitable Trust Foundation regarding the Michael Nobel Energy Award". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  29. ^ nanoPRwire (24 September 2007). "Michael Nobel Relieved of nanoTX'07 Activities After Protest from Nobel Foundation and Family Society". Nano Science and Technology Institute. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  30. ^ Feder, Barnaby J. (18 October 2007). "The Nobel Prize That Wasn't". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2007.

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