Regarding the birth of Alfred Nobel, why is there no Nobel Prize for Mathematics?

On October 21, 1833, Alfred Bernhard Nobel Ahlsell was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Nobel was a chemist, physicist, inventor, writer, and also creator and mentor of the famous Nobel Prize winners. Alfred Nobel went down in history for two fundamental acts, first, because “in 1863 he managed to control the Nitroglycerin explosions, invented by the Italian Ascanio Sobrero, by means of a detonator” (Fernández & Tamaro, 2022); thus giving birth to Dynamite, and second, for having allocated his fortune to the creation of the prizes that bear his name; thereby trying to remedy the misfortune caused to humanity by the invention that catapulted him to fame.

According to the digital magazine (Very interesting, 2022): “Alfred Nobel’s wish was that his assets would serve a benefit to humanity. According to his will, his heritage would have to be divided into five sections: first, the most important discoveries or inventions in the field of physics. Another part, for the person who has made the most important chemical discovery or improvement. Another part should go to the person who made the most important discovery in the field of physiology or medicine. Another part for the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work. Finally, a part for the person who has done his best to advance communion among nations, the abolition of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”

To the Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901, “In 1968 the Bank of Sweden decided to add a sixth Economics Prize under the Nobel name, which has been awarded annually since 1969” (Fernández & Tamaro, 2022). However, since Mathematics is the engine that has driven all existing sciences, being the “Queen and servant of Science”, as Erick T. Bell said, there is still no Nobel Prize for Mathematics. For what is this? Because it does not exist? The reason or reasons are not entirely clear. However, the mathematical historian Mariano Perero presents his version of the issue.

Thanks to the contributions collected by Perero, it can be affirmed that there was the intention of the creation, by Alfredo Nobel, of a Nobel Prize for the “Queen of Sciences”. According to (Perero, 1914), “When the prizes were being created, mathematics was also thought of: Alfredo Nobel asked his advisers if, in the event of creating a Nobel Prize in mathematics, the well-known Swedish mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffer (1846 -1927) would have a chance of winning it. The advisers answered that yes, it was a real possibility, since Mittag-Leffer was very capable and very famous. Mariano Perero points out that before the response of his advisers, Alfredo Nobel responded: “Then there will be no Nobel Prize in Mathematics.” But what is the reason for this determined and harsh response of implications and global significance? Why was the establishment of the prize not finalized? “It seems that Nobel’s wife got along too well with Mittag-Leffer, therefore, Mr. Nobel decided that his prizes would not go to any mathematician,” says Perrero.

Yes, today, the world community of Mathematical Science does not enjoy a Nobel Prize in Mathematics for a mess of skirts between two great brains in the history of Science (always according to the version presented). A misfortune that, like what happened with Henry VIII of England and the Catholic Church, because of Anne Boleyn…; produces a historical break with the edge of human passions that mark the history of humanity.

Fortunately, the same science that has created solutions for all branches of human knowledge was not daunted by the disproportionate action that, according to Perero, affected Nobel, and today there are multiple world awards that honor the work of mathematicians of the world, among them: The Fields Medals, response of the International Congress of Mathematicians to Alfred’s retaliation; Abel Prize; Wolf Prize; the Abaccus IMU Medal, former Nevanlinna Award; Leelavati Award; Chern Medal; Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize; among others.


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Regarding the birth of Alfred Nobel, why is there no Nobel Prize for Mathematics?