2020 Nobel Prizes

In December of 2020, the Nobel Prizes were awarded with minor changes in ceremony due to COVID-19


Lara Charters

A painting of the six Nobel categories.

by Lara Charters, Contributor

Each year, six Nobel prizes are awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to people who have done astounding work or made large advancements in their fields. In 2020, 12 people and one organization received this honor. 

In 1896, Sir Alfred Nobel passed away. His will detailed a series of prizes that his inheritance would be used for, awarded to people who had the greatest positive impact on mankind.

A drawing of a Nobel Prize medal. (Lara Charters)

The six prizes were peace, physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine, and literature. 

Winners receive a medal and a diploma, along with award money. The amount scales as time continues, so  this year winners received about 1.1 million US dollars. In addition, those who received the prize would participate in ceremonies and give a lecture. 

Many events occured in 2020, many advancements and discoveries took place, but most notable in the eyes of the council was the work of the men and women that following: 

The peace prize was awarded to an organization in 2020, the World Food Program (WFP). The WFP was awarded the prize for their efforts towards combating global hunger, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Three scientists worked diligently in 2020, greatly increasing mankind’s understanding of the universe and black holes. For this work, Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez received the Nobel Physics prize

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the prize in chemistry for their joint work in further developing the method for genome editing known as Crispr-Cas9

The Physiology and Medicine prize was awarded to Drs. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. 

Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson were awarded the prize for economic science due to their improvements in auction theory.   

Louise Glück, 77-year-old American poet and essayist, won the literature prize for her poetic voice.

In a typical year, prize winners would be presented with their Nobel Prizes in Stockholm and Oslo, but due to COVID-19, events in Stockholm were mostly canceled, instead replaced with digital ceremonies. 

In addition, awards are usually given by the Swedish king, but due to the pandemic, they were distributed throughout recipients’ home countries. 

The committee is hopeful that the regular ceremonies will be able to occur next year, allowing this year’s winners to also be invited.