In 1895, Alfred Nobel bequeathed much of his immense fortune to create the five original Nobel prizes — for literature, physiology or medicine, physics, chemistry, and peace. The award categories were expanded to include economics in 1968, following a large donation to the Nobel Foundation on behalf of the Swedish central bank, by the creation of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
The symbolic recognition of the work of Nobel laureates increases awareness of scientific research in the eyes of the public. It is a continuing shame that fundamental biology — and not just its application in medicine — lacks such a patron.
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Hughes, P. Nobels: Fundamental biology misses out. Nature 479, 178 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/479178c