Reading Passage 3
The Nobel Prize
A: The Nobel Prize was first introduced in 1895, and now, over a century later, they are still highly respected awards. Presented to those individuals and organizations that make outstanding contributions in the fields of chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine, they are named after Alfred Nobel, the man who initially pioneered the idea. Yet the Prizes had an unlikely start; Nobel’s contribution to science was actually the creation of dynamite. It was only when a French newspaper mistakenly believed Nobel had died, and subsequently printed an obituary referring to him as the ‘Merchant of Death’, that Nobel realised the full impact of the legacy he was leaving behind. He decided that after his death, a significant portion of his wealth should be devoted to seeking out and acknowledging those who had made ‘the greatest contribution to mankind’. However, it was not until 5 years after his death that the first prizes were handed out – complications with the will and disagreements among his surviving relatives meant that the process was set back.
B: Each recipient received – and still receives – a medal, a diploma and a monetary award. As of 2010, 817 individuals and 23 organizations had been awarded a Nobel Prize. Yet not every winner, referred to as a ‘laureate’, has actually accepted the award. In the 1930s, three German winners were not permitted by their government to accept the Nobel Prize, and the government of the Soviet Union pressured Boris Pasternak into declining his award in 1958. In 1964, Jean Paul Sartre, a French writer, also declined the award, although this was not politically motivated – he simply did not accept any official honour.
C: Of all the recipients of Nobel Prizes, only one organisation or person has been awarded the honour multiple times – the Red Cross (which has been awarded a Prize three times). Another interesting statistic is that less than 5 percent of Nobel prizes have been awarded to women, the first of whom was Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Also, since its inception, there have been two occasions where no winner was found for the prizes – in 1941 and 1942. This was largely due to the world war that was being waged at the time.
D: In 1969, having been running for nearly seventy years, a sixth area was introduced to the Nobel Prizes – economics. This was not a category defined in Nobel’s will, but was established by Sweden’s central bank in 1968 on the Bank’s 300th anniversary. Since this time, no categories have been added or removed from the prizegiving.
E: There are of course certain rules governing who can be selected for a Nobel prize. You cannot nominate yourself, nor can a person be nominated after their death. However, it is possible to award a prize to someone who is dead as long as they were alive during the nomination process. Each year, between 100 and 250 people are nominated.
F: Arguably the most well-known of the Nobel prizes is the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the terms of Nobel’s will, it is not the Swedish Academy of Science nor the Academy of Arts (both of which select the recipient for the other prizes); instead, the Peace Prize is awarded by 5 people selected by the Norwegian parliament. But it is not just these 5 people who are carefully chosen – even those who have the right to nominate others are selected from a narrow selection of candidates. Members of national assemblies and governments, as well as selected international governmental bodies, university professors of history, political science, philosophy, law and theology, university presidents and directors of peace research and international affairs institutes, as well as former recipients are among the privileged few.
G: For a nomination to be considered, only one acceptable nominator needs to suggest the name, but a shortlist of nominees, and the final recipient, is decided by the Nobel Institute, comprising of the 5 people selected by the Norwegian Parliament, as mentioned before.
H: Although there is always the aim of reaching a unanimous verdict amongst those judging, there are times when this has not always been the case. In fact, some of the judging panel have resigned following a final decision that they felt was not correct; since its inception, the Peace Prize nominees have included people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini (although they were not awarded the prize). On the other side, there are certain people who are in many ways synonymous with the struggle for peace yet have not been recognised – Mahatma Gandhi, for example, was nominated 5 times but never actually won an award.
I: Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of controversial winners of the Nobel Peace prize over the last 100 years. In the 1940s, Cordell Hull won the Peace Prize for his efforts in putting together the United Nations, but this was in many respects overshadowed by allegations that he campaigned against allowing a boat of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime to seek asylum in America. Anti-Semitic allegations tarnished the prize awarded to John Forbes Nash, who was himself suffering from schizophrenia (a disease which is considered to have impacted on some of his more public comments). Rumours also surrounded Wangari Maathai, a scientist and the first African woman to receive the award, with some claiming that she had aimed certain aggressive remarks at non-African scientists. A claim was also publicly made against the successful nomination of Barack Obama, with the award being given for ‘outstanding international diplomatic efforts’ only 12 days after he took office, with many claiming that the nomination and award were politically motivated.
J: But regardless of the controversies, allegations and history of Nobel, there is no doubt that for many countries, and many people, the Nobel Prizes are a welcome recognition of efforts in a wide range of fields. The award ceremony has, in recent years, become something of a global media event. There is a ‘Peace Prize Concert’ which is broadcast to over 450 million households in over 150 countries.
Reading Passage 3
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27 – 40 which are based on Reading Passage 3.