From Henry Kissinger to Aung San Suu Kyi: the most controversial Nobel Prize winners

Most controversial Nobels: Henry Kissinger
Le Duc Tho refused the award
Most controversial Nobels: Marie Curie
A scandalous affair
Most controversial Nobels: Otto Hahn
Hahn was only interested in discovery, not application
Most controversial Nobels: Barack Obama
A Peace Prize for a President engaged in conflict
Most controversial Nobels: Bob Dylan
Dylan took 1 year to accept his award
Most controversial Nobels: Aung San Suu Kyi
Nobel prizes cannot be withdrawn
Most controversial Nobels: Yasser Arafat
A leader accused of financing terrorism
Most controversial Nobels: Theodore Roosevelt
Most controversial Nobels: Winston Churchill
Churchill could not be granted a peace prize
Most controversial Nobels: Jean-Paul Sartre
A famous refusal...
Most controversial Nobels: Henry Kissinger

This is the most unusual Nobel Prize. In 1973, the American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with the North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho. It was in recognition of the signing of the Paris Agreements, which ended the Vietnam War.

Le Duc Tho refused the award

However, it was an incomprehensible choice, knowing that Kissinger was accused of having provoked the escalation of the conflict. Le Duc Tho, for his part, refused the award, explaining that peace had, in fact, not been reached.

Most controversial Nobels: Marie Curie

In November 1911, Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in chemistry right in the middle of a very public scandal. It was Curie's second Nobel, and she had already won the Nobel in physics in 1903 with her husband, Pierre.

A scandalous affair

Following her husband's death, Marie entered into an affair with her husband's former student Paul Langevin, a married man. When the press got wind, they tore Marie Curie apart, calling her a homewrecker and making racist comments due to her Polish-Jewish origins. The Swedish academy urged her not to come to the official ceremony. But in December, Marie Curie made the trip and received her prize in person.

Most controversial Nobels: Otto Hahn

In November 1945, the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to the German Otto Hahn for discovering nuclear fission. However, three months earlier, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had occurred…

Hahn was only interested in discovery, not application

However, Hahn made this discovery in 1938, and he never worked on its military application or intended it to be used in that manner. Hahn said, “I am a scientist, and like all scientists am interested only in discovery and not application.”

Most controversial Nobels: Barack Obama

In 2009, when Barack Obama had occupied the White House for less than a year, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This award was “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”…

A Peace Prize for a President engaged in conflict

But it was a rather controversial decision since, at that time, he was the President of a country engaged in two armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most controversial Nobels: Bob Dylan

In 2016, the Stockholm jury surprised the public by awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan. And what caused even more controversy was the artist's silence, and subsequently, his absence during the official ceremony.

Dylan took 1 year to accept his award

Many people spoke poorly of Dylan, and some said that anger was brewing behind the scenes at the Swedish institution. Finally, in April 2017, during a more intimate ceremony, Bob Dylan received his medal and the 839,000 euros reward.

Most controversial Nobels: Aung San Suu Kyi

The Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 was awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi, while she was under house arrest. And it would take 21 years for her to receive her reward.

Nobel prizes cannot be withdrawn

Against all odds, when she became de facto head of the Burmese government in 2018, an explosive UN report accused the Burmese army of genocide against the Muslim minority of the Rohingya.
Many then demanded that the Nobel be withdrawn from Aung San Suu Kyi, but according to the Swedish institution, “the statutes of the Nobel Peace Prize would not allow it.”

Most controversial Nobels: Yasser Arafat

In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly received by the Israelis Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian Yasser Arafat for their role in signing the Oslo Accords.

A leader accused of financing terrorism

The choice of the Palestinian leader caused the most controversy since, at the time, he was accused of financing terrorism and of having armed his people with international aid money. To show his dissatisfaction, a member of the Swedish academy decided to resign.

Most controversial Nobels: Theodore Roosevelt

In 1906, the President of the United States was surprised to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “his assistance in the peace negotiations in the Russo-Japanese war.”

"Speak softly and carry a big stick"

The controversy is due to the fact that we know that Theodore Roosevelt is the author of the famous “Big Stick” doctrine: "speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." Roosevelt became famous for this tough foreign policy that advocates diplomatic negotiations firmly supported by military force - a far cry from peaceful negotiation tactics one might expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Most controversial Nobels: Winston Churchill

In 1953, Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”…

Churchill could not be granted a peace prize

One hypothesis claims that in reality, Churchill was awarded the prize for literature because it was impossible to grant him a peace prize.

Most controversial Nobels: Jean-Paul Sartre

The French writer Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 because, according to him, “no man deserves to be consecrated during his lifetime.”

A famous refusal...

This refusal remains famous because it so well illustrates the state of mind of this intellectual who wanted to be independent of the political powers and who also refused other rewards. Jean-Paul Sartre, however, regretted the scandal caused by his decision.

Más para ti