Take the Nobel name off economics prize, say relatives

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It is a name synonymous with peace. But with the centenary celebrations of the Nobel prizes beginning this week, a dispute has broken out between the custodians of Alfred Nobel's estate and members of his family.

Peter Nobel, the great-grandson of Alfred's brother Ludwig, along with three of his cousins, have questioned the legitimacy of the economics prize and demanded that the Nobel name be dropped from the award. They claim it was "never in Alfred Nobel's will and is not in the spirit of his prizes". Their stance has angered the Nobel Foundation, which administers the prizes, and threatens to overshadow the festivities.

The economics award has always been separate from the other five, which are given for outstanding contributions in the fields of literature, peace, physics, chemistry and medicine. Unlike these, economics was never mentioned specifically in Nobel's will; that prize was established in 1968 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Riksbank, the Swedish central bank. Peter Nobel and his cousins are now arguing that it should be named the Riksbank Prize to reflect its heritage.

They claim that Alfred Nobel, an idealist and inventor who has no direct descendants of his own, was highly sceptical of economics, and the existence of this award is an insult to his legacy.

The Nobel Foundation has sided with the Riksbank. "This is a non-issue," said Michael Sohlman, executive director of the foundation. "It is surprising because Peter Nobel is claiming that the family never agreed to this award, but I have very clear documentary evidence from 1968 showing that they did."

Mr Nobel said: "I am going to ask Mr Sohlman to produce these documents. I have never heard of their existence before and I would like to see the wording before I make any decision. The most important thing is to make a distinction between this economics award and the Nobel prizes."