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Monday, October 25, 2010


The Nobel Prize and the Nobel Memorial Prize

Here’s something you may not know. Paul Krugman did not win a Nobel Prize. He won a Nobel Memorial Prize.

The Nobel Prizes were established by the foundation Alfred Nobel funded at his death.

In 1896, Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite, bequeathed his fortune to a foundation to create an annual prize for person "who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." Nobel's will specified prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology/medicine, literature and peace. These were first awarded in 1901.
Note that there were no prizes for economics; economics not being regarded – even today – as one of the “hard” sciences.
In 1969, the Swedish central bank (Sveriges Riskbank) established a prize known as the "Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel", which is commonly shortened to the Nobel Memorial Prize. The Nobel Memorial Prize has a similar procedure of award selection (by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) as the original Nobel prizes. It also disburses the same monetary amounts and shares in the formal ceremony.

This may be nitpicking, but there are a lot of nits to pick with the Nobel and Nobel Memorial Prizes. The primary one is that the awards are often given, not as recognition for outstanding achievement, but to move an agenda in the direction that the Nobel committee deems desirable … which fully explains its award to Barack Obama.

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