History of the Nobel Prize

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The Nobel Prize is one of the world's most coveted awards, carrying international prestige, a hefty cash award and, at times in its history, considerable controversy.

Named after Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, the prizes have been awarded nearly every year since 1901. (There were breaks during each of the two world wars.)

The Nobel Foundation administers the honours, which were first established in Nobel's will. Prizes are handed out in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace...

... The Nobel Prize has had its controversial moments: the 1994 peace award to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that he shared with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin garnered widespread criticism.

The decision sparked demonstrations in Israel, and one Nobel judge resigned in protest, arguing that Arafat's violent past disqualified him.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "one of the low points of the Nobel Prize" in a 2002 interview.

The Nobel committee's secretary, Geir Lundestad, told the Boston Globe: "The Nobel Prize isn't the granting of sainthood. There have been many winners with dark things about their past, but they have managed to raise themselves above them."

Six Nobel laureates have declined the prize, including three German scientists who were ordered not to accept the award at the beginning of the Second World War.

Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist French philosopher and writer, became the first person to voluntarily refuse the prize in 1964. According to a public statement, Sartre said he had a policy of not accepting public honours and he did not mean to slight the Nobel Foundation.

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