This year’s medicine laureate, Robert Edwards, the pioneer of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), was too ill to attend and his wife Ruth collected the prize.
The formal event, held as tradition dictates on the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, took place at Stockholm’s Concert Hall, which was decked out in 20,000 pink, red and purple flowers for the occasion.
The laureates and royal family were among some 1,600 specially invited guests, all clad in white tie dress for men and evening gowns for women.
While Prince Daniel, husband to Crown Princess Victoria made his debut at the Nobel ceremony as a member of the royal family, his sister-in-law Princess Madeleine missed the event, choosing to remain in New York where she has been living and working since last spring.
While the 2009 Nobel season saw a record number of female laureates, no women won awards this year.
Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, a giant of Latin American literature whose political ambitions saw him run for president of his native country, finally won the literature prize at age 74 after being pegged as a favourite for many years.
Edwards, the 85-year-old “father of the test-tube baby,” won the medicine award for work that has enabled millions of couples struggling with fertility problems to become parents.
The physics prize went to Russian-born researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their groundbreaking work on graphene, a form of carbon touted as the wonder material of the 21st century.
Richard Heck of the United States and Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki of Japan won the chemistry prize for forging a toolkit to manipulate carbon atoms, paving the way for new drugs to fight cancer and for revolutionary plastics.
The economics prize went to three labour market experts, Americans Peter Diamond and Dale Mortensen and British-Cypriot Christopher Pissarides, whose work helped resolve puzzles such as why people remained unemployed despite a large number of job openings.
The Nobel Prizes consist of a gold medal, diploma and 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) per discipline, which is shared if there is more than one recipient.
The ceremony was followed by a gala banquet and ball at Stockholm City Hall hosted by the King and Queen for some 1,300 invited guests.
The guests had already take place in the large Blue Hall when shortly after 7pm, the King and Queen, laureates and other guests at the table of honour entered slowly and solemnly to the sound of an organ and orchestra.
A short dance show and a congratulatory toast by the King preceded the multiple course dinner, which included a winter chanterelle salad and duck, turbot and beef.
Edwards’ wife Ruth sat next to Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at the honour table, decorated with red, pink and purple flowers in bud vases that emulated the test tubes central to her husband’s work.
Earlier on Friday, the head of the Norwegian Nobel committee placed this year’s Nobel Peace Prize on an empty chair at a ceremony in Oslo as Beijing raged against the award to dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is languishing in a Chinese prison cell.
Communist authorities in Beijing fumed at the prize for the 54-year-old author, while many voices in the international community, including last year’s laureate, US President Barack Obama, led calls for Liu to be released.