Azerbaijan International

Autumn 1996 (4.3)
Pages 84-85

The Nobel Prize
in Postage Stamps

by Hugo Vargas

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the Nobel Prize benefactor, Alfred B. Nobel (1833-1896). A chemical engineer and scientist by profession, Nobel devoted most of his life's work to the research and development of explosives, specifically dynamite, nitroglycerin, and blasting gelatin. Eventually, he came to hold 355 patents and became incredibly wealthy from the exploitation of his inventions-building and operating over 90 factories in 20 countries on five continents.

A significant portion of funding for the Prize can also be traced to Azerbaijan. Alfred's brothers, Robert and Ludvig, owned the Nobel Brothers' Petroleum Company at the time when Baku was producing more than 50% of the world's oil (See AI: 2:4, 10; Summer 1994). As Alfred was the largest single shareholder in the company, it is said that the decision to allow the withdrawal of his shares from Baku (a reported 12% of the Prize Fund) enabled the awards to be established.

Since 1901, prizes have been awarded annually in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The economics prize was added in 1968. Each Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and approximately $1 million.


Unlike other contemporary barons of business, Nobel lived a rather spartan life. He is said to have been unassuming and reticent. Though Swedish by birth, his outlook was cosmopolitan, and he felt comfortable with French, German, Russian, English and Swedish languages. The scope of the prizes reflect his own broad personal interests.

Nobel's great legacy to the development of intellectual thought and world peace has not gone unnoticed among the world of philatelists. More than 175 stamps have been issued over the years from 15 countries, honoring Nobel Prize winners as well as Nobel himself on the anniversaries of his birth (1833), death (1896), and the creation of his will (1895).



Announcements of the Nobel winners are made early each October, followed by the Award Ceremonies on December 10, in Oslo (Peace) and Stockholm (remaining prizes).

So far, 15 countries have celebrated Nobel's legacy with 175 stamps, most of which honor Prize recipients of the last 95 years. Others commemorate Nobel's birth or death anniversaries.


Other articles related to the Nobel Brothers:

(1) Nobel Prize Funded from Baku by Adil Baghirov (AI 4:2, Summer 1996)
(2) Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, (AI 6.3, Autumn 1998)
(3) Newsmakers: Nobel Prize Centennial by Brita Asbrink (AI 9:3, Autumn 2001)
(4) Nobels in Baku: Swedes' Role in Baku's First Oil Boom

Azerbaijan International (4.3) Autumn 1996.
© Azerbaijan International 1996. All rights reserved.

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