From First Woman to First African American, These Nobel Prize Firsts Are Both Shocking and Inspiring

Social Media Editor

With Japan-born British author, Kazuo Ishiguro, honoured yesterday with the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, it seems important to commemorate the distinguished visionaries who came before him. It was on December 10, 1901 that the first prestigious prizes were awarded as dictated by the last will and testament of Swedish philanthropist, entrepreneur, scientist and engineer Alfred Nobel, following his passing five years earlier.

Kazuo Ishiguro

Nobel’s hope for the award was to celebrate leaders in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace who dedicate their lives to the benefit and progress of mankind. The winners however, were not always as diverse as the fields they represented, nor even always happy to accept the accolade. Below we reveal 11 Nobel Prize facts you may not know.

First Winners

Alfred Nobel

The first Nobel Prize winners ever, awarded at the original 1901 ceremony at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Nybroviken, Stockholm were Wilhelm Rontgen for Physics, Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff for Chemistry, Emil Adolf von Behring for Physiology/Medicine and Sully Prudhomme for literature.
The First Woman to Win

Marie Curie in Her Laboratory

The first woman to win the Nobel Prize was Marie Curie for Physics in 1903.
The First Person to Win for Multiple Disciplines

Marie Curie

Surprise, surprise, the first person to win a Nobel Prize for multiple disciplines was yet again, Marie Curie, this time for chemistry in 1911.
The First Asian Winner

Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi in 1940

The first person of Asian descent to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize was Rabindranath Tagore, who was also the first Indian winner. He was honoured for his contribution to literature in 1913.
The First African American to Win

Portrait of Ralph Bunche

The first African American to win the Nobel Prize was Ralph Bunche for Peace. This didn’t happen until 1950, which is a sad reminder of the troubling racism the Black community has faced through the decades.
The First Woman of Color to Win

Aung San Suu Kyi

The first woman of colour to achieve Nobel winning status was Burmese diplomat, author and politician Aung San Suu Kyi. This happened in 1991, 41 years after the first Black winner and a full 78 years after the first Asian winner. Most interestingly, Aung was also the first person to receive the honour whilst under house arrest.
The First Hispanic and Latino Winners

Carlos Saavedra Lamas

The first Hispanic winner of the prize was Spanish author, Jose Echegaray for Peace in 1905 and the first Latino was Carlos Saavedra Lamas, also for Peace in 1936.

The First LGBTQ Winner

Rainbow Flag

Another disturbing Nobel Prize anomaly is that there has never been an openly LGBTQ person awarded for any of the categories. There are of course hopes that this could change, but so far, nothing.
The First Person to Decline the Prize

Jean-Paul Sartre, 1967

On a lighter note, the first person to reject the Nobel was existentialist author, political activist and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1964. His subsequent statement to the Swedish Press explained that his reasons were both ‘personal and objective.’
First Year Without A Prize

American Troops Climbing A Hill During WWI

The first year without a Prize since it’s inception in 1901 was in 1914, during World War I, where Prizes were not awarded for Peace or Literature. In total however, there have only been 49 occasions in its 116 year history that Nobel Prizes have not been awarded.
The Youngest Winner

Malala Yousafzai

The first and only person under 25 to win a Nobel Prize was Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai, who won the award for Peace in 2014 at just 17 years of age for her exemplary defense of girl’s education in third world countries.
The Oldest Winner

Leonid Hurwicz

The first and only person, 90 years or older, to win the award was Leonid Hurwicz who was honoured with the 2007 Award in Economic Sciences at the ripe age of 90.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.