Prizewinning Who's Who

October sees the announcement of winners of several key prizes, as the first of this year's Nobel Prize winners are named from 7th October onward, as the Man Booker winner is announced on 15th October, and as we catch our first glimpse of the Turner Prize shortlist on show in UK City of Culture 2013, Londonderry, from 23rd October.

To mark this occasion, Who's Who shines the spotlight on some well-known and some more obscure prize winners from the annals of Who's Who and Who Was Who. (After reading, don't forget to try our quiz to see how well you know your WW and WWW prize winners.)


credit:, Gösta Florman / The Royal LibraryNobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901 funded by a bequest from Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (pictured left) under the terms stipulated in his will. Three science prizes are given annually (for Physics, Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine) as well as the prizes in Literature and for Peace.

Polish-born Marie Curie and her French husband Pierre won the Physics Prize in 1903 for their work on radiation, and Mme Curie alone won the Chemistry Prize in 1911 for her later discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Their daughter Irene and her husband Frederic Joliot-Curie jointly won the Chemistry Prize in 1935 for their further research on radioactivity. Another prizewinning pair conjugally bonding over the test tubes were Hungarian-born, Gerty and Carl Cori, who won the Physiology or Medicine Prize in 1947 for their work on the conversion of glycogen.

Out of 862 Nobel Laureates to date only 43 are women – including scientists Dorothy Hodgkin (Chemistry, 1964) and Rosalyn Yalow (Physiology or Medicine, 1977).

Lawrence Bragg became the youngest prizewinner when at 25, together with his father, William, he won the 1915 Physics Prize for their work on X-Rays. Linus Pauling remains the only person to win two unshared prizes – for Chemistry in 1954 and for Peace in 1962.

French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre was the first person to decline a Prize when offered the Literature award in 1964, claiming that he never accepted prizes, and being apparently unwilling to make an exception. Other Literature winners happier to receive the honour are writers as diverse as Rudyard Kipling (1907), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1970), Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1982), Seamus Heaney (1995), Harold Pinter (2005) and in 2007, Doris Lessing.

The Peace Prize is often a controversial award, no more so than when given to US President, Barack Obama in 2009 after less than a year in office. Earlier, less disputed Prizes were received by Martin Luther King in 1964, Mother Teresa in 1979 and in 1984 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


The final six books in contention for the Man Booker were revealed on 10th September, bringing the number down from an initial list of 13 titles. The prestigious award, dating back to 1969, is given to the judges' selection for the best fiction novel written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland. The winner will be announced at London's Guildhall on 15th October.

Howard Newby won the first Booker Prize in 1969 with his novel Something to Answer For. Since then 45 authors have been fortunate enough to have claimed the prestigious title. Peter Carey and J. M. Coetzee have won the award twice, as has Hilary Mantel with Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), while V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer and William Golding have all won both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.


credit: Tate Britain, 2011. CC license 2.0.What do elephant dung, an unmade bed and a pickled shark have in common? They are all the artistic endeavours of past shortlisted artists and winners of the Turner Prize, named after nineteenth-century painter J. M. W. Turner, RA and inaugurated in 1984 by the Tate Patrons of New Art to recognize the best in British contemporary art – as well as to provoke discussion. All a far cry from Turner's delicate watercolours, but his own work was not uncontroversial in its day.

This year's prize, to be announced on 3rd December, is worth £25,000 to the winner. The jury, whose composition changes every year, will be chaired by the Director of Tate Britain, Dr Penelope Curtis.

Tracey Emin, whose unmade bed installation attracted wide publicity was shortlisted in 1999 but has never won it. Living sculpture double-act GILBERT and GEORGE (aka Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore) were awarded the prize in 1986, while cross-dressing ceramicist Grayson Perry was the winner in 2003. Would Turner have been puzzled by these manifestations of artistic talent?…


In 1935 Harold Keates Hales, a shipping owner as well as a pioneer in the motor industry, introduced the Hales Trophy for the winner of the Blue Riband, awarded to the ship making the fastest Eastward/Westward crossing of the North Atlantic on the same voyage. Recognition of speed on land and in air as well as on water was earlier championed by the Royal Automobile Club when in 1930 the Segrave Trophy was inaugurated to honour Sir Henry Segrave; it has since been awarded to such intrepid pioneers as the aviator, Amy Johnson for her flight from London to Cape Town in 1932, explorer John Blashford-Snell following his Zaire River Expedition of 1974 and. to record-breaking racing driver, Sir Jackie Stewart.

The spirit of endeavour in extreme conditions has been recognised since 1904 by the award of the Polar Medal for exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic – an early winner was Augustine Courtauld, who in 1931 spent the winter alone on the Greenland ice-cap monitoring the weather patterns for future air travel. Later rugged medal winners include mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Wally Herbert.


1. Which famous politician has won the Nobel Prize in Literature?

2. Which previous Man Booker Prize winner was once a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary?

3. Which Turner Prize winner created the Angel of the North?

4. Which test pilot won the Segrave Trophy for pioneering supersonic flight?

> More about Who's Who and Who Was Who

>Follow us on Follow Who's Who on Twitter @ukwhoswho

> Back to top

© Oxford University Press 2007. All Rights Reserved

Text of Who's Who and Who Was Who copyright © A&C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc
All other web site content copyright © Oxford University Press