Each year, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is announced for the entire world to celebrate — a long-lasting tradition that became a reality when wealthy Swedish inventor and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel died in 1896. The reading of Nobel’s will shocked the world because he dedicated his colossal fortune to “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
More than a century later, the Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious award on the planet. It still distributes equal financial prizes across the five categories outlined in Alfred Nobel’s original will: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Here’s a look at what winners received for 12 decades of Nobel Prize awards, including the most recent winner announced on Oct. 6, 2017. Because inflation diminishes the buying power of currency over time, you’ll see the amount of the actual prize the winner received — and how much the prize would be worth today when factoring in inflation.
How Much Is the Nobel Prize Amount?
Five years to the day of Alfred Nobel’s death, the first Nobel Prize money amount was awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. Over the past decades, as the list of Nobel Laureates has grown, the Nobel Prize award money has fluctuated from under $20,000 to over $1 million. In 2016, the Nobel foundation concluded that, along with the gold medal and diploma awarded, a Nobel Prize dollar amount of approximately $1 million dollars should be given to the recipient of the award going forward.
Nobel Prize Winner’s List
For their efforts, Nobel prize recipients receive, among other items, a large sum of money that has steadily increased over the decades. Here’s information on the past amounts of prize money of Nobel Prize recipients and how much the same Nobel Prize amounts would be valued at today.
Nobel Prize: 1900s
Prize amount in 1901: $17,451
Value in 2017: $510,357.70
In 1903, scientist Marie Curie became the first female Nobel laureate ever — just one of her many firsts. She was also the first female professor at Paris-Sorbonne University, and the first Nobel Prize winner — and only person to this day — to win two Nobel Prizes in two different categories: physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911.
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Nobel Prize: 1910s
Prize amount in 1910: $16,285
Value in 2017: $425,575.75
In 1917, the International Committee of the Red Cross won its first of three Nobel Peace Prizes, more than any other person or organization in history. The Red Cross was honored for its work during World War I, in 1944 during World War II and in 1963 on the 100th anniversary of its founding.
Nobel Prize: 1920s
Prize amount in 1920: $15,520
Value in 2017: $197,432.90
Among the most celebrated and consequential scientists in history — and one of history’s most famous Nobel Prize winners — Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921. Einstein, who was honored for discovering the law of the photoelectric effect, left all of his winnings to his former wife and their two sons. He promised them the Nobel Prize money in writing in 1919 — two years before he won.
Nobel Prize: 1930s
Prize amount in 1930: $20,016
Value in 2017: $287,386.45
In 1938, the Nansen International Office for Refugees won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work with, among many other groups, Armenians expelled from Turkey. The next year, the Nazis would invade Poland, launching World War II and triggering the greatest refugee crisis in human history.
Nobel Prize: 1940s
Prize amount in 1940: $16,038
Value in 2017: $283,283.00
The 1940s is known as the decade with the greatest and most glaring omission in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic martyr for human rights and inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was nominated four times without winning before he was murdered in 1948.
Nobel Prize: 1950s
Prize amount in 1950: $19,016
Value in 2017: $198,671.89
George C. Marshall planned the D-day invasion of Normandy and ordered that nuclear weapons be dropped on Japan at the behest of President Truman. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, however, for his work on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
Nobel Prize: 1960s
Prize amount in 1960: $26,155
Value in 2017: $219,165.51
Four years before his assassination in 1968, civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. At just 35 years old, the “I Have a Dream” orator was the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.
Nobel Prize: 1970s
Prize amount in 1970: $46,294
Value in 2017: $300,689.33
In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — one of many honors the Albanian nun would receive after a half-century of caring for the sick and poor. On Sept. 4, 2016, Pope Francis named her “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” and declared her a Catholic saint.
Nobel Prize: 1980s
Prize amount in 1980: $101,848
Value in 2017: $321,408.99
Exiled peace and freedom activist Tenzin Gyatso, known as the 14th Dalai Lama, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his peaceful opposition to China’s occupation of Tibet. The Nobel Committee conceded that the gesture was, in part, a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
Nobel Prize: 1990s
Prize amount in 1990: $462,947
Value in 2017: $892,168.64
In 1993, South African civil rights hero Nelson Mandela was awarded half of the year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The other half went to Frederik Willem de Klerk, the white South African president who freed Mandela from prison — where he’d languished as a political prisoner since 1963 — and worked with him to end apartheid.
Nobel Prize: 2000s
Prize amount in 2000: $1 million
Value in 2017: $1.5 million
In 2009, President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize and donated his $1.4 million in prize money to several charities. When former Vice President Al Gore won in 2007 — an honor he shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the prize money went to climate change initiatives.
Nobel Prize: 2010s
Prize amount in 2010: $1,157,368
Value in 2017: $1,311,365.40
In 2010, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Robert G. Edwards, who developed in vitro fertilization. Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, was previously imprisoned a number of times for speaking out against political oppression in China.
Nobel Prize: 2017
Prize amount in 2017: $1 million
In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the International Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The Norwegian Nobel Committee lauded ICAN for its dual efforts to bring attention to the potentially catastrophic consequences of nuclear war and to develop the legal framework needed to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons, just as landmines and cluster munitions were outlawed in the past. The prize amount was a step up from the Nobel Prize 2016 award of $923,989.60.
Methodology: GOBankingRates converted prize values from SEK to USD and adjusted for inflation to obtain the 2017 amounts. Amounts are accurate as of September 2017.
About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.