The first Nobel Prize was awarded on 10 December 1901. The awards ceremony was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on the death anniversary of the man who instituted it, the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel. The Nobel Prize, which was awarded to five persons in the first year, is the most prestigious global recognition in the fields of economics, literature, physiology or medicine, peace, physics and chemistry.
On this day, we bring you the life stories of Indian and Indian-born winners of the Nobel Prize. Two Indians received this honour many years before the country became independent.
Kailash Satyarthi – Nobel Prize for Peace, 2014
Kailash Satyarthi was the joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2014 for his work towards stopping exploitation of children and providing them quality education.
According to the Nobel Foundation, the prize was awarded jointly to Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai (of Pakistan) “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Satyarthi said that there was no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children.
Born on 11 January 1954, Satyarthi established the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in 1980. The organization’s vision is to create a child friendly society, where all children are free from exploitation and receive free and quality education. The BBA has also been at the forefront of campaigns against child labour and trafficking.
Prof Amartya Sen – Nobel Prize for Economics, 1998
One of India’s well-known economists, Prof Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 for his contribution to welfare economics. He was the first Asian economist to receive the Nobel Prize. Prof Sen is best-known for his work on the causes of famine and his efforts to understand the problems of the poorest of the poor. He has also written on gender and social issues.
Born on the campus of Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, West Bengal, Sen studied at the Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata)and Trinity College, Cambridge. He has taught at Delhi University, the London School of Economics, Oxford University and Harvard University.
Subramanyan Chandrashekhar – Nobel Prize for Physics, 1983
The Indian-born astrophysicist is the nephew of the first Indian winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, Sir C V Raman. Dr S Chandrashekhar (1910-1995) won the award in 1983 for his theory on the final stages of stellar evolution. His pioneering research in astrophysics, which included determining what is known as the Chandrashekhar Limit, helped in a better understanding of supernovas, black holes and neutron stars.
He studied at the Presidency College, Madras (now Chennai) and the Trinity College, Cambridge. After Trinity, where he held a position for three years from 1933 to 1936, Dr Chandrashekhar joined the University of Chicago and rose to the position of professor of astrophysics. He became a US citizen in 1953 and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society the same year.
Mother Teresa – Nobel Prize for Peace, 1979
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979 for her tireless crusade for world peace and her selfless devotion to the cause of the destitute. She was born in 1910in Macedonia and baptized asAgnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She left home and moved to Ireland to join the Sisters of Loretto when she was 18 as she wanted to become a missionary. It was in Ireland that she was given the name Sister Mary Teresa. She arrived in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1929 to teach at a school run by the Sisters of Loretto and took her initial vows as a nun a few years later. She eventually became the school’s principal and came to be known as Mother Teresa.
In 1946, she is said to have received what she described as her “call within a call”, prompting her to establish her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, to serve the poorest of the poor. Over the next few decades, the order expanded its work to other parts of India and the world. She was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in September 2016.
Hargobind Khorana – Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1968
An Indian-American biochemist, Hargobind Khorana (1922-2011) shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Marshal W Niremberg and Robert W Holely. He was honoured for his contribution in interpreting the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.
He studied at the University of Punjab, Lahore (then a part of undivided India) and obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Liverpool, England. He lived in India till 1945, after which he travelled to England, Canada and finally the United States for research. He eventually settled down in the United States and became a naturalized US citizen in 1966. Five years later, he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and remained with the institution till his retirement in 2007.
C V Raman – Nobel Prize for Physics, 1930
Acclaimed physicist Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman, better known as Sir C V Raman (1888-1970), was the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize for Physics. He won the award in 1930 for the “Raman Effect” or the discovery that diffused light contains rays of other wavelengths. The country celebrates National Science Day on 28 February to mark the discovery of the “Raman Effect”.
Born in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, in 1888, he studied at Chennai’s Presidency College and was awarded a gold medal in physics. In fact, he carried out his earliest research in optics and acoustics while he was still a student. His first career was a civil servant in Kolkata (then Calcutta) but he managed to take time out for his first love, research and public lectures on science. He was eventually offered the Palit Chair of Physics at Calcutta University which he accepted. He later moved to the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Rabindranath Tagore – Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913
Poet, dramatist and novelist, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is the first Indian ever to receive a Nobel Prize. He received the honour for his collection of poems, Gitanjali. Originally written in Bengali, Tagore translated this work into English in 1912. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”.
His other famous works include Manasi, Sonar Tari and Gitmalya (poetry); Raja, Dakghar and Raktakaravi (plays); Ghare Baire, which was made into a film by Satyajit Ray, and Yogayog (novels). Rabindranath Tagore has also written and composed India’s national anthem. His early years were spent in Kolkata, where he was born, and later went to England for education. Popularly known as Gurudev, Tagore had received a Knighthood from the British in 1915 but renounced it to protest the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919.