Alfred Nobel, a well-known Swedish chemist established the Nobel prize awards after he decided to bequeath a large portion of his wealth to people who made a difference in humanity through their work.

The Nobel Prize is one of the most prestigious awards that scientists, writers or economists dream about and a long line of brilliant minds, including economists, laid the foundation for a new line of aspirational talent who will strive towards a better world for all.

But did you know that Economics has not always been on the list and even though the first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901, it wasn’t until 1969 when the first Nobel prize for Economics has been awarded?

If you plan to follow a career in economics, we hope you aspire to create impactful work for humanity and maybe one day be nominated for the most recognised and internationally known award.  Let’s have a look at the history of the Nobel Prize and why some scientists regard this award as the pinnacle achievement of any career.

The Origin of The Nobel Prize

Born in 1833 from a family in Stockholm, Alfred Nobel was a well-known scientist, businessman and inventor, but he would also go on to become the founder of the Nobel prize.  Alfred had a keen interest in chemistry, literature and physics and even though he wanted to study poetry, his father insisted that he continues his studies in chemical engineering.

It was in Paris, under the famous chemist Professor T.J. Pelouze, where his passion for the development of explosives were ignited.  Alfred went on applying his skills and knowledge in detonator and explosives development and soon had factories in over 20 countries which coined him as ‘Europe’s richest vagabond’.

Nobel prize winners
Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk won the Nobel prize for Peace in 1993 for their successful termination of the apartheid regime - Image by

On 10 December 1896, Alfred passed away, leaving in his last will and testament the instruction that most of his fortune needs to be endowed to those who have done their best to advance humanity in the fields of chemistry, literature, medicine, peace and physics. The first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901 in Stockholm, Sweden with the exception of the Peace prize which was awarded in what we know today as Oslo, Norway.

Alfred allocated the responsibility and administration of the Nobel prizes in his will to different awarding bodies, based on category. The Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm administered the categories of physics, chemistry and economics while the Nobel prize for medicine is coordinated by the Nobel Assembly at Karolina Institute in Sweden. The Nobel prize in literature became the responsibility of the Swedish academy and lastly, the Peace prize went under the administration of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Since then the longstanding prestigious Nobel awards has gone on to award 597 Nobel Prizes to 950 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2019. It might sound like a lot but remember that this is in all 6 categories and it has been running for almost a century.  There have also been years where no works of sufficient importance could be recognised to receive the award and during World War I and World War II the Nobel prizes for all categories were not awarded.

Economic Theory Fit for a Nobel Prize

Science and humanity
Will your Economic research make a positive and impactful contribution to humanity? - Image by Anja from Pixabay

The Nobel prize for Economics, known as The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences only came into being in 1968 when Sweden’s central bank established it in memory of Albert Nobel. The Nobel prize in Economic Sciences uses the same principles as those of other Nobel prizes and is awarded together with the Nobel Prizes for physics and chemistry by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The winners of the first prizes in Economic Sciences were awarded in 1969 to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen who produced ground-breaking theoretical research on Econometrics.

Consequently over 84 Awards have been awarded in Economic Sciences with the latest Laureates being Abhijit Banerjee, Michael Kremer and Esther Duflo “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. The prize, based on the merit of the award, will be shared between two winners and if it’s produced by a team and the jointly award will be limited to three people (laureates).

The Economics Nobel Prize category might be the youngest of them all, but no year has gone by without an award since its inception.

This Nobel Prize category, together with all the other Nobel prizes, are awarded annually at a glamorous Nobel Prize Ceremony. Here’s a list of economists who made an impact on humanity through their work over the last decade:

  • 2019: Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Michael Kremer (Experimental approach to Alleviating poverty)
  • 2018:  William D Nordhaus (Integrating climate Change into long-run macroeconomic analysis)
  • 2018: Paul M. Romer (Integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis)
  • 2017: Richard H. Thaler (Behavioral Economics)
  • 2016: Oliver Hart and Bengt Holström (Contact theory)
  • 2015: Angus Deaton (Analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare)
  • 2014: Jean Tirole (Market power and regulation)
  • 2013: Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert J. Shiller (Empirical analysis of asset prices)
  • 2012: Alvin E. Roth and Loyd S. Shapley (Theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design)
  • 2011: Thomas J. Sargent and Christopher A. Sims (Empirical research on cause and effect in the Macroeconomy)
  • 2010: Peter A. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen and Christopher A. Pissarides (Analysis of markets with search friction)

Winning a Nobel Prize in Economics

If you have an interest in becoming a laureate economist yourself, we would recommend you research the previous years’ winners. You’ll learn how various economic theories shaped economic policy, modern economic theory and the world economics at large. Nobel Prizes in Economics are awarded across a broad range of economic specialties including:

  • Game theory
  • Economic development
  • Empirical economic analysis
  • Monetary and fiscal policy

Luckily you don’t have to belong to a specific school of economics or be set in specific economic principles to win.  It is all about practical, genius innovation and making a difference through rigorous research that meets the quality standards.  You cannot nominate yourself and you'll have to be one of the best as the selection criteria is conscientious to ensure they separate the cream from the crop.

Tutor makes sense
Finding the perfect tutor will light up your studies and the world of economics - Image by lukasz_gl from Pixabay

So, what do people actually win when they’re awarded a Nobel Prize?

On 10 December each year, the anniversary date of Alfred Nobel’s death, the ceremony awards all their winners in a spectacular event.  Winning a Nobel prize is firstly an exceptional honour as your work is recognised by the world as something that made a significant impact on humanity.

An individual who wins a Nobel prize in Economics is called a Laureate. This term originated from Greek mythology where the God Apollo wore a circular crown known as a laurel wreath, the sign of victory and honour.

Beyond the prestigious recognition, laureates also receive a medal designed by Swedish artist Gunvor Svensson-Lundqvist with the north star emblem of the Royal Academy of Sciences on it. They will also receive a unique diploma that’s created by Swedish and Norwegian artists and if that’s not enough, the winner in 2019 walked away with 9 Million Swedish Krona (approximately R17 million).

Economics, just like most professional fields, demands a knowledge of current affairs and economic trends. Watch and listen to the latest economic indicators on local news to aid your understanding and learning progression. Economics is a science after all and building on the knowledge gained by all these historical laureates and current economists will ensure you develop well-informed economic theories of your own.

It’s also important to keep an eye on international affairs, international trade issues and how economies react under certain conditions. Gathering information online is so easy with most news channels and international publications like Reuters, CNN and BBC available at your fingertips.  Be sure to subscribe to specialist economic journals like the financial times and the economist as well, they usually contain multiple opinion pieces to help you develop your economic rational capabilities.

Trading port
International trade policy forms an important part of our Macroeconomic studies - Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

If that’s not enough you can search and find quality blogs around economics, using google. Be sure you check out the top 100 economics blogs for 2020 and subscribe to the ones you like most for updates.

You can fast-track your studies by getting a professional economics tutor or lecturer. They will not only guide you to explore previous economic winning theories, but they’ll also help you make sense of classical textbook theories while you discover which fields in economics interest you most.

The advantages of having an economics teacher, professor or tutor are endless, especially if your journey into the world of Economics is brand new. They will get you to raise and construct arguments, counterarguments and use applied economic theory. Most of the tutors we feature on Superprof will specialise in areas you might struggle with. If budget is a challenge you can also consider a shared class with some of your classmates.

Want to learn more about economics?  We have created articles especially for new students in Economics.  Find out what your definition of economics might be, learn some of the most recognised economics terms or discover how economics can be seen as the science of polarity.

Need an Economics teacher?

Enjoyed this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.