Winning a Nobel prize is a big deal. The people who win them, whether it be for peace or science, are considered the cream of the crop in the entire world. These are paradigm shifters and movement makers.
But, like any award, the “should have won” category is getting bigger and bigger as the years go by. The constant debates surrounding the losers of the award are usually more interesting than the winners themselves. Let’s dive into the biggest “losers” of the different Nobel Prizes.
One scientist in this article has been nominated 87 times and still has nothing to show for it!
John Paul II
Pope John Paul II has been recognized as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. He served as the Pope and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.
He’s credited with improving relations with Judaism, Islam, and the Anglican church. He was one of the most traveled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He was the second-longest serving Pope of all time.
He has been considered a Ghandi-like figure in his home country of Palestine. Rather than support attacks on Israel, the way that some of his fellow countrymen did, this Palestinian philosophy professor decided to focus on proactively helping his people in the midst of the bloodshed.
His supporters believe that he should already have a Nobel Peace Prize, but that has yet to happen. In a popular online poll, he was recently voted 24th most influential intellectual in the world.
Morgan was the head of the Movement for Democratic Change, and was the prime minister of Zimbabwe and the first Zimbabwe national to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t win, but the nomination was there at least. That’s more than can be said for most of the people on this list.
His organization was mainly opposing President Robert Mugabe and the current ruling party in Zimbabwe. He was arrested and charged with treason, but those charges were dropped because of corruption against him.
He was a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident. and politician. Vaclav Havel was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. During his time, he was widely acclaimed for his human rights work across Eastern Europe and has been named one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
His political philosophy was one of anti-consumerism, humanitarianism, environmentalism, civil activism, and direct democracy. The airport in Prague has now been named after him.
She’s more than just a former First Lady of the United States. Eleanor Roosevelt was as politically active as her husband Franklin D Roosevelt. She was the one who led the first mission of the United States to the United Nations, allowing the U.S. to recognize how significant the UN really was.
She was the woman behind the UN Commission on Human Rights as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her influence is everlasting in United States diplomacy and she remains a popular figure decades after her death.
This could easily be the most controversial person on this list. Edward Snowden was once a National Security Agency contractor who became alarmed after witnessing the use of top-secret computer software to spy on American citizens.
He was the whistleblower that leaked information to a British newspaper before going into hiding in Russia. He helped bring to light a grave and serious threat to democracy and gave people a choice on how they want to handle it.
Einstein famously referred to her as “German Marie Curie.” While she wasn’t the one who showed that when you bombard Uranium with a neutron, you get Barium, she was the first one to interpret the results correctly.
She was the first one to coin the term “fission” in physics. She was passed over by the Nobel committee when they gave the chemistry prize to someone who discovered “fission of heavy nuclei”. She was nominated 48 times with no luck.
When you think of peace, you should think of John Lennon. Although he’s been a controversial figure, to say the least, his music, philanthropy, and his devotion to peace have left a lasting impact on the world.
He was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War which resulted in a lengthy attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him from the United States. Many of his songs were adopted as anthems to the anti-war movement and the larger counterculture.
Abdul Sattar Edhi
He’s the founder of the Edhi Foundation, an organization in charge of running the world’s largest ambulance service. They also operate a plethora of free services and shelters like orphanages, rehab centers, nursing homes, and clinics. He looks to help drug addicts and those who are mentally ill.
In November 2011, the Pakistani Prime Minister recommended him for a Nobel Peace Prize, but he’s yet to receive one. He’s somebody who lives to serve others the best he can.
Dr. Sima Samar
She’s a female physician who founded the Shuhada Organization and Shuada Clinic. Dr. Sima Smar was a human rights and democracy advocate in her native country of Afghanistan. She was recognized because of her support for health care facilities for women and children.
Ever since, she’s been actively opposing the extremism and injustice that is commonly accepted in her home country. She sees a fundamental bias against women in the healthcare industry and looks to bridge that gap.
The ruling out of Poincaré as a Nobel Prize winner will remain as a permanent blot on the Nobel committee. He was nominated 51 times in a time spanning from 1904 to 1912. This means that MANY nominators chose him during those 8 years, and he never got the award. By the end of those years, he was nominated by 34 different people.
He was described as a polymath, or in mathematics, as “The Last Universalist” since he excelled in all fields of the discipline. He did a lot for applied math, but one of them was that he became the first person to discover a chaotic deterministic system which helped lay the foundations of modern chaos theory.
Hubble discovered that many objects previously thought to be clouds of dust were actually galaxies beyond the Milky Way. He used the strong direct relationship between Cepheid variable luminosity and pulsation period for scaling galactic and extragalactic distances.
He created Hubble’s Law, which implies that the universe is expanding. His name is widely recognized for the Hubble Space Telescope that was named in his honor. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1953 but couldn’t convince the committee he was worth it.
Aquino holds the distinction of being named the first female President in Asia and established a significant number of humanitarian reforms in the Philippines. The start of her reign marked the end of the dictatorial rule in the country (which has since gone back to its old ways).
Aquino instituted a new constitution that emphasized the democracy of the Filipino people. She is considered today as one of the most influential women in the history of the world.
Thich Nhat Hanh
He’s a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist who has dedicated his life to participating in the peace movement and upholding non-violent solutions to the conflicts going on in the country.
He spent most of his life in the Plum Village Monastery in South France but traveled extensively giving talks to thousands of people. He has published more than 100 books and refrains from using animal products for consumption.
He’s mainly known for his pioneering works in statistical mechanics. Ludwig Boltzmann was the person who uncovered the microscopic meaning of entropy. He laid the foundation for Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics and conceived the idea of the Boltzmann equation.
He was nominated for a Nobel Prize three consecutive years before his suicide in 1906. It was said that he couldn’t stand up to the criticism from other people in regards to his equation.
Father Nguyen Van Ly
He was a Vietnamese native and a Roman Catholic priest who got involved in the pro-democracy movements. He was imprisoned for 15 years because of his protesting. During his imprisonment, he continued to lead several non-violent protests. In 2002, he was award the Homo Homini Award for Human Rights Activism in Vietnam.
He has been a strong voice for freedom of speech in the country, even though he’s been behind bars. He participated in the establishment of the Vietnam Progression party.
Sommerfeld was a pioneer in old quantum theory. He was nominated a record 84 times between 1917-1951. It’s interesting to note that many of his students went on to become Nobel Laurates.
The reason why he never won one was based on the fact that he didn’t have a single great achievement the committee could point to, even though his collective body of work in quantum theory stacked up to those who ended up winning.
Bill And Melinda Gates
What more is there to be said about Bill Gates. Yes, he’s more known for his work with Microsoft, but Bill and his wife Melinda are the top philanthropists in the United States.
They’ve collectively donated $30 billion to combat extreme poverty and disease. They’ve helped improve the lives of millions through their research and funding. Bill was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, which is the highest award a civilian can get.
Dr. Feng Shan Ho
Dr. Feng Shan Ho, a former consul-general of the Chinese Embassy in Vienna, is often called “China’s Schindler.” In the 1940s, he was told not to issue visas in order to prevent Jewish people from immigrating.
Shan Ho, however, refused those orders and issued around 2000 of them in a span of six months, which ended up saving their lives. His forward-thinking and willingness to put his life on the line for thousands in need is worth a Nobel Prize.
Pope Pius XI
Prior to the Second World War, Pope Pius XL delivered a speech in front of the 250,000 pilgrims in Lourdes, France, stating that the Nazis were nothing but miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel.
He stuck to his word, and before the war, he played a huge role in defending Jews and Christians being persecuted under Nazi and Soviet regimes. He was an influential anti-hate voice during the time.
Dorothy Day was one of the most significant personalities during the Great Depression and organized the Catholic Worker Movement. It was a pacifist movement during the Second World War that was in place to help families rebuild their lives and promote peace by means of communal living and distributed wealth.
Her movements eventually spread to both Canada and Europe and are still active to this day. She was truly a paradigm shifter.
Jacques Delors, the French economist and politician, was the eighth president of the European Commission and was the first man to serve there for three consecutive terms. He led with the poor in mind.
He actively promoted both the acceptance of the market economy and alignment with social democracy in Europe. In 1990, he received the Freedom Medal. He also founded the Paris-based center-left think tank called Notre Europe in 1996.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Fazle played a critical role in the rebuilding of Bangladesh after the Indo-Pakistani Wars of Separation. After the war ended, Bangladesh became an autonomous country but was left devastated.
To help his nation recover, he created a development organization that aimed to rebuild infrastructure and help the people of his nation re-establish their ravaged homes. The organization grew to be one of the largest development organizations in the world as it spread to eight countries. It helped more than 100 million people worldwide.
You may have seen Cesar Chavez be called “The Martin Luther King of Mexico” as he was the founder of the National Farm Workers Association in California. He formed the association, now called the United Farm Workers, to help improve the working conditions for the common Latino laborers in his country.
He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. He also has a commemorative holiday (March 31st) that’s observed by several states in the US.
José Figueres Ferrer
He served as the President of Costa Rica for three terms, which is nearly unheard of. He was very popular, and it’s easy to see why. He granted both men and women equal right to vote, which was revolutionary in the country at the time.
He gave citizenship to black immigrants, and he wanted to abolish his army because he felt the police presence was enough to monitor the domestic issues in the country.
If you’ve seen the iconic movie Schindler’s List, you know of Oskar Schindler. He’s probably one of the most well-known members of the Avenue of the Righteous. He saved nearly 1,500 Jews from the hands of the Nazis by providing jobs for them in his weapons factory during the Second World War.
He knew that his life would be in jeopardy by doing this, but it never stopped him from employing the Jews and even paid the Nazis millions of dollars so that he could take care of them himself.
Stephen Bantu Biko
After Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1964, Stephen Biko took the reins and became the head of the South African Anti-apartheid movement. He was the founder of the Black Consciousness movement and promoted the “brotherhood of man.”
He was also actively involved in the promotion of unity among all nations, and he preached non-violence among his subordinates. He dedicated his life to peaceful protests until the Apartheid police ended up killing him.
I know what you’re thinking — Gandhi doesn’t have a Nobel Peace Prize? The answer is NO. Even though he’s probably the most household name on this list, he hasn’t been given a Nobel Peace Prize, which is staggering to think about.
He was an Indian activist who led the independence movement against the British. He led India to gain that independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedoms across the world.
Irena is a Polish Roman Catholic nurse and social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II. She smuggled over 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and provided them with false identity documents, saving them from the Holocaust.
In 1943, she was arrested by the Gestapo, but was able to hide the list of names and locations of the kids. She was sentenced to death, but escaped the day of her execution.
Ken Sar-Wiwa, who has been known as the Gandhi of Nigeria, was part of the Ogoni people, a minority in Nigeria. He was someone who had always been honest about his distrust and grudges toward the government.
Due to the displacement of his people and the exploiting of their resources for the gain of the elite, he formed an organization to protect the rights of the minority. They led non-violent demonstrations on behalf of the persecuted. He was hung by the government under false accusations.