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Notable Nobel Prize Winners in Peace

(Editor’s note: Welcome to Bold’s series on the Nobel Prize, its winners, and their contributions. Read up on the notable winners in chemistry here.)

Mother Theresa is one of a few remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners
Any list of remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners must include Mother Theresa and President Jimmy Carter.

As one of the five original Nobel Prizes established in the will of Albert Nobel, the award is among the most cherished. The first Nobel Peace Prize was announced in 1901, and since, there have been 103 total prizes awarded. Because more than one person may receive the prize in any given year, the honor has been bestowed on 140 individuals. Likewise, organizations may also receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which includes the Red Cross as a three-time recipient. While all award winners are noteworthy, some are recognized as being among the more famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. But by creating a greater fraternity among nations and through promoting peace, all are remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners.

It is quite intriguing that a “peace” prize was included among the various Nobel Prize categories. Albert Nobel was a chemist and engineer, which certainly explains many of the selected categories defined in his will. However, it is less clear why he chose to also award a Nobel Peace Price to those who performed such benevolent work. The prevailing theory is his friendship with Bertha von Suttner, a known peace promoter, influenced him in this direction. Others suggest it was to compensate for some of his destructive contributions in science, such as those related to dynamite and ballistite. In either case, the remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners share equal respect and recognition with the other category awards. And the following lists some of the most famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

  • Bertha von Suttner – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1905

Bertha von Suttner is included among the most famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates for several reasons. For one, she was a baroness and the very first female recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Likewise, she is believed to have greatly influenced Albert Nobel when determining various categories to recognize. However, she is also one of the more remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners for her contributions to world peace. In 1889, she wrote the highly influential book, “Lay Down Your Arms.” She also established the Austrian Peace Society in 1891, of which she was a noted leader among its male-dominant congress. As one of the earliest laureates, Bertha von Suttner set the bar high almost from the start.

  • Theodore Roosevelt – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1906

In 1906, the Nobel Peace Prize went to Theodore Roosevelt, the first statesman to win the award. His role in negotiating peace between Russia and Japan in 1905 was the primary act that convinced the committee of his merits. Roosevelt also resolved a dispute with Mexico through peaceful arbitration during this same time. But he is listed here as one of the famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates because of the controversy that ensued. Many cited Roosevelt’s military actions in the Philippines as counterproductive to peace. Others accused the Nobel committee of political favoritism and influence. In any case, Roosevelt’s actions did meet the criteria for the award and one of the more remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners.

famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates include Teddy Roosevelt
As famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates go, President Theodore Roosevelt is certainly one of the more notable.
  • Mother Teresa – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1979

Mother Teresa began her charitable life’s journey at the age of 12 and subsequently dedicated her life to others. After completing her education and nunnery requirements, she founded a sisterhood named Missionaries of Charity. Through her charitable endeavors she helped the impoverished while living among them in India. As one of the more remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners, her efforts were extensive. She built homes for orphans, nursing homes for lepers, and hospices for the terminally ill. And in addition to being among the most famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, she was also deemed a saint by Pope Francis in 2016. (Want to give to charity? There are apps for that–read about them in this Bold story.)

  • Tenzin Gyatso – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1989

It’s probably not surprising that the Dalia Lama is included among the more remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalia Lama, earned this honor for her persistence in promoting peaceful solutions concerning China’s occupation of Tibet. By demonstrating unprecedented tolerance and respect, the Dalia Lama sought a peaceful means to preserve Tibetan history and culture. This even included a peace plan to resolve the occupation, which China ultimately rejected. Regardless, this does not detract from the Dalia Lama’s efforts and his inclusion among the most famous Nobel peace Prize winners.

  • Mikhail Gorbachev – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1990

As a communism reformist, Mikhail Gorbachev pursued specific strategies in the Soviet Union to bring about improved global relations. He introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (change) as a means to bring the Cold War to a close. These efforts were combined with talks to ease military threats between the U.S. and Russia. These were the actions Gorbachev pursued that placed him among the more famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. In essence, he helped usher in a new era of peace as the Berlin Wall fell, making him certainly one of the remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners.

some coins with Nobel Prize winners
Win a Nobel Peace Prize, get your likeness on a coin–where is the downside?
  • Nelson Mandela and Frederick Willem de Klerk – Nobel Peace Prize Laureates 1993

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after Frederick Willem de Klerk terminated his lifelong imprisonment sentence. Mandela has dedicated his life to fighting racial injustices, which hard required guerilla aggression in his youth. These actions led to his arrest and sentencing in 1964. And he continued to be a powerful voice for human rights and justice despite his confinement. Indeed, Mandela was not only the most famous political prisoners of his time. He also became one of the most famous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in 1993. de Klerk shared the award with Mandela for his role in liberating Mandela and supporting human rights. 

  • Jimmy Carter – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2002

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was complicated, being plagued with ups and downs. But his legacy is without question one of peace. During his presidency, he successfully negotiated a peace settlement between Israel and Egypt. He also sought to advance human rights and freedoms throughout the world. And after his presidency, he continued such peacekeeping efforts to resolve various international conflicts. This occurred even at times when U.S. policies were not necessarily well-aligned. For his tireless work in these areas, Carter became one of the more remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2002.


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