The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel. Ever wonder who some of the most remarkable winners have been? From Martin Luther King Jr. to Mother Teresa, here are 25 Most Remarkable Nobel Peace Prize Winners.
The Swiss businessman and social activist, Henry Dunant was the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. During a business trip in 1859, Dunant saw the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in Italy, and in response to the cruelties he witnessed, he founded the Red Cross in 1863. The Geneva Convention (adopted in 1864) was also based on his ideas.
Bertha von Suttner
Born in Prague in 1843, Bertha von Suttner was a Czech-Austrian baroness, pacifist, and novelist. The first woman to be solely awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1905), she wrote one of the 19th century’s most influential books, the anti-war novel, “Lay Down Your Arms.”
The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt received the Peace Prize for having negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese War and resolving the dispute with Mexico by resorting to arbitration as recommended by the peace movement. However, the award was, for the first time, controversial as Roosevelt was perceived by some as a “military mad” imperialist who completed the American conquest of the Philippines.
Woodrow Wilson was another US President who won the Nobel Peace Prize, but in this case, there was no controversy. Wilson won the Prize for 1919 as the leading architect behind the League of Nations, whose aim was to ensure world peace after the slaughter of millions of people in the First World War.
Known as the Mother of Social Work, Jane Addams was a pioneer American settlement activist, social worker, sociologist, author and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace. Addams was the second woman to receive the Peace Prize (1931). She founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and worked for many years to get the great powers to disarm and conclude peace agreements.
Carl von Ossietzky
German journalist and socialist Carl von Ossietzky was one of the foremost critics of political developments in Germany in the inter-war years. He revealed that the German authorities were secretly engaging in rearmament, contrary to the Versailles Treaty. For this he was found guilty of treason and imprisoned. After the seizure of power by the Nazis in 1933, he was arrested again and sent to a concentration camp. He was awarded the Prize in 1935.
Carlos Saavedra Lamas
The first Peace Prize Laureate from a country outside Western Europe and the US was the Argentine Carlos Saavedra Lamas, who helped Argentina join the League of Nations, played a leading role in the organization’s condemnation of Italy’s war on Ethiopia in 1936, and made important contributions to the peace negotiations between Paraguay and Bolivia after the so-called “Chaco war” in the 1930’s.
John Boyd Orr
The Scottish physician and biologist John Boyd Orr emerged in the inter-war years as one of Britain’s leading experts on nutrition. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 for his scientific research into nutrition and his work as the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The French-German physician and humanitarian activist, Albert Schweitzer received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life,” which was expressed in many ways, most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambarene, modern Gabon. Schweitzer believed that no person must ever harm or destroy life unless absolutely necessary.
An American statesman and soldier, George Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for the Marshall Plan – a plan aimed at the economic recovery of Western Europe after WW II. Marshall wanted to aid Europe in securing stability and preventing the spread of communism.
Georges Pire was a Belgian Dominican friar who dedicated most of his life to helping refugees in post-World War II Europe. One of Pire’s principal motives was to serve the cause of the European community through humanitarian work; however, the Nobel Committee attached more importance to his efforts to “build a bridge across the waves from colonialism, anti-colonialism, and racial conflict.” Pire was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1958.
Africa’s first Peace Prize laureate, Albert Lutuli was a South African teacher, activist, and politician who was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. It was the second time when the Nobel Committee chose a prize-winner who was being persecuted by his own authorities (the first one was Carl von Ossietzky in 1935).
Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the most influential figures of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. received the 1964 Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism. He is also known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and Gandhi´s philosophy.
Le Duc Tho
Le Duc Tho was a Vietnamese revolutionary, general, diplomat, and politician who negotiated with Henry Kissinger for an armistice in Vietnam between 1969 and 1973. The two men received the Peace Prize together 1973, but Le Duc Tho refused to accept it, claiming that his opposite number had violated the truce they had agreed on.
The father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Andrei Sakharov was awarded the Peace Prize in 1975 for his opposition to the abuse of power and his work for human rights. The leaders of the Soviet Union reacted with fury and refused Sakharov permission to travel to Oslo to receive the Prize. His wife Jelena received it on his behalf.
The Roman Catholic nun and missionary Mother Teresa dedicated almost all her life to helping poor, ill, and disabled people and orphans. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which is active in most countries of the world. Mother Teresa won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and in 2016, 19 years after her death, she was canonized.
Former President of Poland (from 1990 to 1995), Lech Walesa is a retired Polish politician and labor activist who co-founded and headed Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union. Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, but he was unable to accept it himself, fearing Poland’s government would not let him back into the country, so his wife Danuta accepted the prize on his behalf.
The 14th Dalai Lama
When the Nobel Committee chose the 14th Dalai Lama for the 1989 Peace Prize, it emphasized that he based his Buddhist peace philosophy on reverence for all living things and the idea of a universal responsibility that embraces both man and nature. It weighed heavily in the Tibetan leader’s favor that he had showed willingness to compromise and seek reconciliation despite brutal violations.
The former Soviet statesman and the final leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev won the 1990 Peace Prize after the Nobel Committee gave him credit for bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end. He also declared that he would not support Communist regimes in other countries if their peoples were opposed to them, by which he started a chain reaction that led to the fall of communism in Europe.
The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, philanthropist, and former President of South Africa (1994 to 1999), Nelson Mandela won the 1993 Peace Prize for his work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa. Mandela shared the Prize with the man who had released him from prison, former President of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk.
The Israeli politician who served as the ninth President of Israel (2007 to 2014), Shimon Peres won the 1994 Peace Prize together with another Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine leader Yasser Arafat for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian diplomat, was awarded the Prize for having revitalized the UN and for having given priority to human rights. The Nobel Committee also recognized his commitment to the struggle to contain the spreading of the HIV virus in Africa and his declared opposition to international terrorism.
The fourth US President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama won the 2009 Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” However, the award drew a mixture of praise and criticism from world leaders and media figures.
Known as the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution” in Yemen, Tawakkol Karman is a Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist. She was awarded the Peace Prize in 2011 for “her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Karman shared the Prize with two Liberian women’s right activists Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee.
The Pakistani activist for female education, Malala Yousafzai received the 2014 Peace Prize at the age of just 17, which made her the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. After having suffered an attack on her life by Taliban gunmen in 2012, the young activist has continued her struggle against suppression of children and become a leading advocate of girls’ rights.
Photos: Feature Image: lasanta.com.ec via flickr, 25. International Committee of the Red Cross via flickr, 20. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-93516-0010 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons, 17. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-D0116-0041-019 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons, 15. Dominican order in Belgium via wikimedia commons, 14. Dutch National Archives via wikimedia commons, 12. manhhai via flickr, 11. Anefo / Croes, R.C. via the Dutch National Archives via wikimedia commons, 10. Túrelio via wikimedia commons, 9. MEDEF via flickr, 8. Christopher Michael via flickr, 7. RIA Novosti archive, image #359290 / Yuryi Abramochkin / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons, 5. Elza Fiúza via wikimedia commons, 4. United States Mission Geneva via flickr, 3. Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project via wikimedia commons, 2. Harry Wad via wikimedia commons, 1. DFID- UD Department for International Development via flickr