1950 Nobel Prize in Literature
Bertrand Russell
"in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."
  • 10 November 1950 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1950
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
← 1949 · Nobel Prize in Literature · 1951 →

The 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded the British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."[1][2] He is the fourth philosopher to become a recipient of the prize after the French analytic-continental philosopher Henri Bergson in 1927, and was followed by the French-Algerian existentialist Albert Camus in 1957.[3] He is also the fifth British author to be awarded.



Bertrand Russell made his first pioneering contributions within the branch of philosophy that deals with logic and mathematics. But his influence eventually spread across much more ground.[4] His work is known for its lightheartedness and humor, and it has helped a large audience of readers learn about science and philosophy. His writings cover a variety of subjects, including social and moral challenges, and his opinions were frequently divisive. Russell was a fierce champion of the right to free speech and thinking as well as a strong supporter of reason and humanism. His most famous philosophical works include Principia Mathematica (1910–1913), The Problems of Philosophy (1912), Why I Am Not a Christian (1927), Power: A New Social Analysis (1938), and A History of Western Philosophy (1945).[5][3]





Russell had not been nominated for the prize before 1950, making it one of the rare occasions when an author have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature the same year they were first nominated.[6] He was only nominated once by nominator Eugen Tigerstedt (1907–1979), professor of Swedish literature at the University of Helsinki.[7]

In total, the Nobel committee received 79 nominations for 54 writers. Pär Lagerkvist (awarded in 1951) received seven nominations and was named a favorite following the publication of his novel Barabbas,[8] while Winston Churchill (awarded in 1953) received six nominations. Twenty of the nominees were nominated first-time such as Simon Vestdijk, Graham Greene, Mika Waltari, Martin Buber, Robert Frost, Karl Jaspers, Alfred Noyes, John Dewey, Hermann Broch, and Robert Graves. Four of the nominees were women namely Karen Blixen, Marie Under, Gertrud von Le Fort, and Henriette Roland Holst. The American author William Faulkner was nominated in 1950 and was awarded for last year.[9]

The authors Edgar Rice Burroughs, Augusto d'Halmar, Albert Ehrenstein, John Gould Fletcher, Nicolai Hartmann, George Cecil Ives, Alfred Korzybski, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Elisabeth Langgässer, Marcel Mauss, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emmanuel Mounier, Cesare Pavese, Ernest Poole, Hilda D. Oakeley, George Orwell, Alykul Osmonov, Rafael Sabatini, Agnes Smedley, Olaf Stapledon, Xavier Villaurrutia, and Yi Kwang-su (nominated posthumously in 1970) died in 1950 without having been nominated.

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Mark Aldanov (1886–1957)  Soviet Union
( Ukraine)
biography, novel, essays, literary criticism Ivan Bunin (1870–1953)
2 Eugène Baie (1874–1964)  Belgium law, essays Paul Saintenoy (1862–1952)
3 Karen Blixen (1885–1962)  Denmark novel, short story, memoir Cai Woel (1895–1963)
4 Jacobus Cornelis Bloem (1887–1966)  Netherlands poetry, essays Victor Emanuel van Vriesland (1892–1974)
5 Hermann Broch (1886–1951)  Austria novel, essays The Austrian PEN-Club
6 Martin Buber (1878–1965)  Austria
philosophy Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)
7 Albert Camus (1913–1960)  France novel, short story, essays, philosophy, drama Gustaf Hellström (1882–1953)
8 Hans Carossa (1878–1956)  Germany poetry, autobiography, essays Axel Lindqvist (1873–1953)
9 Winston Churchill (1874–1965)  United Kingdom history, essays, memoir
10 Paul Claudel (1868–1955)  France poetry, drama, essays, memoir
11 Benedetto Croce (1866–1952)  Italy history, philosophy, law
12 Júlio Dantas (1876–1962)  Portugal poetry, drama, novel, essays Lisbon Academy of Sciences
13 John Dewey (1859–1952)  United States philosophy, pedagogy, essays Henry Steele Commager (1902–1998)
14 Georges Duhamel (1884–1966)  France novel, short story, poetry, drama, literary criticism
15 Johan Falkberget (1879–1967)  Norway novel, short story, essays
16 William Faulkner (1897–1962)  United States novel, short story, screenplay, poetry, essays Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
17 Robert Frost (1874–1963)  United States poetry, drama American Academy of Arts and Letters
18 Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970)  United Kingdom novel, short story, drama, essays, biography, literary criticism English PEN Centre
19 Robert Graves (1895–1985)  United Kingdom history, novel, poetry, literary criticism, essays Harry Martinson (1904–1978)
20 Graham Greene (1904–1991)  United Kingdom novel, short story, autobiography, essays
21 Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)  United States novel, short story, screenplay Anders Österling (1884–1981)
22 Taha Hussein (1889–1973)  Egypt novel, short story, poetry, translation Bernard Guyon (1904–1975)
23 Nikos Kazantzakis (1883–1957)  Greece novel, philosophy, essays, drama, memoir, translation Hjalmar Gullberg (1898–1961)
24 Karl Jaspers (1883–1969)  Germany
philosophy Ernst Levy (1881–1968)
25 Johannes Jørgensen (1866–1956)  Denmark novel, poetry, biography Cai Woel (1895–1963)
26 Pär Lagerkvist (1891–1974)  Sweden poetry, novel, short story, drama
27 Halldór Laxness (1902–1998)  Iceland novel, short story, drama, poetry
28 Enrique Larreta (1875–1961)  Argentina history, essays, drama, novel
29 Leonid Leonov (1899–1994)  Soviet Union drama, novel, short story Valentin Kiparsky (1904–1983)
30 Lin Yutang (1895–1976)  China novel, philosophy, essays, translation Pearl Buck (1892–1973)
31 François Mauriac (1885–1970)  France novel, short story
32 Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968)  Spain philology, history Gunnar Tilander (1894–1973)
33 Martin Andersen Nexø (1869–1954)  Denmark novel, short story
  • Kai Friis Møller (1888–1960)
  • Cai Woel (1895–1963)
34 Alfred Noyes (1880–1958)  United Kingdom poetry, drama, essays, biography, novel, short story, literary criticism Frederick Samuel Boas (1862–1957)
35 Seán O'Casey (1880–1964)  Ireland drama, memoir
  • Mary Elizabeth Morton (1876–1957)
  • Oscar Wieselgren (1886–1971)
36 Arnulf Øverland (1889–1968)  Norway poetry, essays Cai Woel (1895–1963)
37 Boris Pasternak (1890–1960)  Soviet Union poetry, novel, translation Martin Lamm (1880–1950)
38 Edward Plunkett (1878–1957)  Ireland short story, novel, drama, poetry, essays, history, autobiography Irish PEN Centre
39 Thomas Head Raddall (1903–1994)  Canada novel, short story, history, essays, memoir Will Richard Bird (1891–1984)
40 Henriette Roland Holst (1869–1952)  Netherlands poetry, essays, biography Victor Emanuel van Vriesland (1892–1974)
41 Jules Romains (1885–1972)  France poetry, drama, screenplay
42 Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)  United Kingdom philosophy, essays, history Eugen Tigerstedt (1907–1979)
43 Jean Schlumberger (1877–1968)  France poetry, essays French Centre – PEN International
44 Mikhail Sholokhov (1905–1984)  Soviet Union novel Valentin Kiparsky (1904–1983)
45 Angelos Sikelianos (1884–1951)  Greece poetry, drama
46 Leopold Staff (1878–1957)  Poland poetry, translation Jan Parandowski (1895–1978)
47 Albert Steffen (1884–1963)   Switzerland poetry, essays, drama, novel Kersti Bergroth (1886–1975)
48 Stijn Streuvels (1871–1969)  Belgium novel, short story Franz De Backer (1891–1961)
49 Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889–1975)  United Kingdom history, philosophy Fredrik Böök (1883–1961)
50 Marie Under (1883–1980)  Soviet Union
( Estonia)
poetry Johannes Aavik (1880–1973)
51 Tarjei Vesaas (1897–1970)  Norway poetry, novel Olav Midttun (1883–1972)
52 Simon Vestdijk (1898–1971)  Netherlands novel, poetry, essays, translation Victor Emanuel van Vriesland (1892–1974)
53 Gertrud von Le Fort (1876–1971)  Germany novel, short story, essays, poetry Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)
54 Mika Waltari (1908–1979)  Finland short story, novel, poetry, drama, essays, screenplay

Award Ceremony


During the award ceremony held at Stockholm City Hall on 10 December 1950, Anders Österling of the Swedish Academy, said:

"With his superior intellect, Russell has, throughout half a century, been at the centre of public debate, watchful and always ready for battle, as active as ever to this very day, having behind him a life of writing of most imposing scope. His works in the sciences concerned with human knowledge and mathematical logic are epoch-making and have been compared to Newton's fundamental results in mechanics. Yet it is not these achievements in special branches of science that the Nobel Prize is primarily meant to recognize. What is important, from our point of view, is that Russell has so extensively addressed his books to a public of laymen, and, in doing so, has been so eminently successful in keeping alive the interest in general philosophy."[10]

Nobel lecture


Russell delivered a Nobel lecture entitled "What Desires Are Politically Important?" at the Swedish Academy on 11 December 1950. The lecture addresses the political ramifications of desires that are considered infinite in their ability to be satisfied but not necessary for immediate human survival.[11] He highly stressed the importance of neutral and socially beneficial venues for the venting of passions and suggests the cultivation of intelligence as the best antidote for social strife.[11]


  1. ^ "Nobel Prize in Literature 1950". nobelprize.org.
  2. ^ George Axelsson (11 November 1950). "Faulkner Gets Nobel Prize; Bertrand Russell Is Honored; Literatare Awards Cover '49 and '50--Briton, Two Germans Win in Science". New York Times.
  3. ^ a b Bertrand Russell britannica.com
  4. ^ Bertrand Russell – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu
  5. ^ Bertrand Russell – Facts nobelprize.org
  6. ^ "Nomineringar och utlåtanden 1901-1950" (in Swedish). Svenska Akademien.
  7. ^ "Nomination Archive – Bertrand Russell". nobelprize.org.
  8. ^ Håkan Möller "Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas and the Nobel Prize for Literature" Journal of World Literature 1 2016, p.505
  9. ^ Nomination archive – 1950 nobelprize.org
  10. ^ Award Ceremony speech by Anders Österling nobelprize.org
  11. ^ a b 1950 Nobel lecture nobelprize.org