Nobel Prizes and South African Laureates those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.

Winning a Nobel Prize is one of the highest international honours that can be bestowed on a person. It brings global recognition and attention to a winner's work, and will help to generate funds to ensure the continuation of this work. It highlights our best and brightest.

What do 10 December 1961, 1984 and 1993 have in common?
1961 - Albert Luthuli received the Nobel Peace Prize. 1984 - Bishop Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace prize 1993 - FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize

On 27 November 1895 Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist and inventor of dynamite, left $9 million in his will to establish the Nobel Prizes. He stipulated that the awards be given annually, disregarding the nationality of possible recipients. He also specified six areas to be covered by the rewards namely Peace, Literature, Physics, Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine. In 1968 the Bank of Sweden added the award for economic science in memory of Nobel.

Nobel's family were surprised and upset that he had not left all of his fortune to them, but rather to establish the prizes. Although they contested the will his last wishes were respected and the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, on the 5-year anniversary of his death. The funds and assets that are made available for the awards of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace are managed by the Nobel Foundation. This private institution was established in 1900 and is responsible for all arrangements surrounding the awards.

For the full list of all the Nobel Laureates in Peace.

South African laureates:

Albert Luthuli, 1960
1960 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: President of the African National Congress in South more.

Desmond Tutu, 1984
1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: Bishop of Johannesburg and former Secretary General South African Council of Churches (S.A.C.C.). For his work against more

Excerpt from the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

We stand here today as nothing more than a representative of the millions of our people who dared to rise up against a social system whose very essence is war, violence, racism, oppression, repression and the impoverishment of an entire people. Read his acceptance speech.

FW de Klerk, 1993
1993 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Nelson Mandela, 1993
1993 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Read more about Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk's Nobel Peace Prize.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Chemistry is the science of matter. It is the branch of the natural sciences that deals with the composition of substances, their properties and reactions. Chemistry looks at the processes of life and helps us to understand chemical reaction on molecular basis while also contributing to many of the technological advances we rely upon in the modern world. The first Nobel Prize in this category was awarded to Jacobus H. van't Hoff for the discovering the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions.

For the full list of all the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.

South African laureates:

Aaron Klug, 1982

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1982: For his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.


The Nobel Prize in Literature

Literature refers to creative writing of recognised artistic value. The Nobel Prize in Literature can be awarded to works of poetry, short stories, novels, plays, essays and speeches. The first award in this category went to poet and philosopher Sully Prudhomme for his 1865 work Stances et Poèmes. This prize has been given to a great variety of writers from different cultures and languages, famous and unknown.

For the full list of all the Nobel Laureates in Literature.

South African laureates:

Nadine Gordimer, 1991
1991 Nobel Laureate in Literature: Who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity more.

South African laureates:

JM Coetzee, 2003
2003 Nobel Laureate in Literature: Who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider more.


The Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine

Medicine relates to the branches of medical science that deal with non-surgical techniques while physics is the branch of biological sciences that deals with the functioning of living organisms. Our understanding of our own bodies and how to remain healthy in a world full of disease is essential to our existence and this award lauds researchers who help to achieve these goals. The first Nobel Prize in this category was given to Emil von Behring for his work on serum. His discoveries helped save countless lives. The prize has also been awarded for advances in immunology, genetics, neurobiology, diagnostics and drug development.

For the full list of all the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine. 

South African laureates:

Max Theiler, 1951
1951 Nobel Laureate in Medicine: For his discoveries concerning yellow fever and how to combat it more.

Alan M. Cormack, 1979
1979 Nobel Laureate in Medicine: For the development of computer assisted tomography more.

Sydney Brenner, 2002
2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine: For his discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death more.


The Nobel Prize in Economics

Economics is the branch of social science that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, as well as their management. This award was introduced by the Bank of Sweden in memory of Alfred Nobel in 1968. The first award in this category went to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in 1969 for their development and application of dynamic models in the analysis of economic processes. The prize has also been awarded for theories and methodologies that are used in the studying and effective use of economic and financial resources, as well as macroeconomic economic policy and performance, development economics, international trade and the role of information.

For a full list of Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences.


The Nobel Prize in Physics

Physics is the science of matter and energy and their interactions. Understanding physics helps us to understand how the world works. The first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Wilhelm RÁ¶ntgen for his discovery of X-rays, or RÁ¶ntgen rays.  The prize has also been given in recognition of research on cosmic radiation, communication technology, the structure of matter and superfluidity.

For the full list of all the Nobel Laureates in Physics.

• Alfred Nobel - The Man Behind the Nobel Prize [online] Avaliable at: [Accessed 12 October 2009]
• Nobel Prize History - [online] Available at [Accessed 12 October 2009]

Last updated : 11-Dec-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Apr-2011