Here is a look at dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel and the annual prizes which he bequeathed before the first of them is awarded on Monday.
As well as being an inventor and businessman, Nobel dabbled in writing plays and poetry. Nobel never married and was constantly on the move. French writer Victor Hugo called him "Europe's richest vagabond". He once described himself in this way: "Pathetic half life, should have been suffocated by a humane doctor as he sobbingly made his entry into life ... His only request: not to be buried alive."
Alfred Nobel said in his will that the prizes should be given to people "who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind".
He ordered that most of his estate of 31 million Swedish crowns at the time should be converted into a fund and invested in safe securities. Winners get 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.21 million). The prize money was cut by 20 percent this year. The first prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after Nobel's death in San Remo, Italy. There have only been a few years in which the Nobel Prize was not awarded, particularly during the World Wars.
His will stipulated five categories for prizes: physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature and peace. A sixth prize, the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968 at the behest of Sweden's central bank.
Between 1901 and 2011, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 549 times, shared among 853 Laureates. Of all the prizes, only 44 have been awarded to women and 776 to men between 1901 and 2011.
(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)