Here are the most controversial Nobel Prize-winners ever

Ted Spiegel | Corbis Documentary | Getty

Every October, the Nobel Prize committee announces who has excelled in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, economics, medicine and peace.

However, the recipients of the award, which consists of a gold medal and cash sum, have often been the cause of much controversy.

Here, CNBC looks back to eight controversies surrounding the award.

2009: Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize

President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009
Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty

The U.S. president received the prize in 2009, just nine months into his first term. Many criticized Obama's nomination for being premature and that he had not been in power long enough to deserve the prize.

"This is the Nobel committee giving Obama the 'you are not George W. Bush' award," Brian Becker, national coordinator of Act Now To Stop War and End Racism, said in a Reuters report at the time.

In 2015, the former director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, seemed to regret the decision, writing in his autobiography that the committee thought the prize would strengthen the president, but that it didn't have this effect.

"Even many of Obama's supporters believed that the prize was a mistake," he said, according to the BBC. "In that sense the committee didn't achieve what it had hoped for".

2012: The European Union, Nobel Peace Prize

Violeta Chalakova | EyeEm

The peace prize was given to the EU "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe," according to the award committee.

Many complained about the choice, as the European Union was dealing with several pressing economic problems, including the Greek debt crisis, and because several European countries make and sell weapons.

"Alfred Nobel said that the prize should be given to those who worked for disarmament," said Elsa-Britt Enger, a representative of Grandmothers for Peace, in a Reuters report at the time. "The EU doesn't do that. It is one of the biggest weapons producers in the world."

Other critics included former winners of the prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Northern Ireland's Mairead Maguire and Argentina's Adolfo Perez Esquivel, signed an open letter criticizing the decision and said the EU is "clearly not one of the 'champions of peace' Alfred Nobel had in mind" when he created the prize, the Associated Press reported.

1994: Yasser Arafat, Nobel Peace Prize

Yasser Arafat (left), Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994
Yaakov Saar | GPO | Getty

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared the 1994 award for their work on the Oslo Peace Accords.

The decision received criticism, not only because the awards are generally seen to have failed at ending the Israel-Palestine conflict but because of Arafat himself. A member of the committee, Kare Kristiansen, resigned over Arafat's nomination, and in an article for the Times of Israel in 2012, American columnist Jay Nordlinger called Arafat "the worst man ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize."

1973: Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize

American diplomat Henry Kissinger in 1988
Waring Abbott | Getty

The U.S. Secretary of State was jointly awarded the prize in 1973 along with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho for brokering a cease-fire.

The award was highly criticized, not least because Kissinger had ordered a bombing raid of Hanoi while negotiating the cease-fire. Le Duc Tho declined his half of the award and two members of the committee, who had voted against Kissinger's selection, resigned in protest.

1949: António Egas Moniz, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

A lobotomy procedure in 1946
Kurt Hutton | Picture Post | Hulton Archive | Getty

The Portuguese neurologist and brain surgeon was awarded the prize for devising the lobotomy – a procedure where part of the brain is cut away. The medical procedure was designed to treat mental disorders, but has since come into disrepute and has been all but abandoned.

1918: Fritz Haber, Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Fritz Haber in 1919
Topical Press Agency | Getty

Fritz Haber was awarded his prize for inventing the Haber-Bosch process, which is a way of producing ammonia on a large scale. This has proven critical in creating fertilizer to support agriculture, and thereby feeding billions of people.

But Haber is also well-known helping to develop chlorine gas as a chemical weapon during World War I and Haber defended the use of gas warfare during his lifetime.

This is ironic, as Alfred Nobel created the Nobel prizes out of concern that he would only be remembered for creating dynamite and other weapons after reading a French newspaper which called him "the merchant of death."

Mahatma Gandhi (by omission)

Mahatma Gandhi leads the 1930 Salt March
Central Press | Stringer | Getty

In 2006, the former director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, said the greatest omission in the prize's history was never awarding the peace prize to the Indian political activist Mahatma Gandhi.

According to Lundestad, Gandhi was shortlisted five times (twice before World War II, then in 1946, 1947 and 1948), but the committee's Euro-centric viewpoint and its failure to appreciate the struggle for freedom in colonies kept Gandhi from receiving the award.

"Gandhi could do without the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether the Nobel committee can do without Gandhi, is the question," said Lundestad.

Great authors go unrecognized

Singer/Songwriter Bob Dylan performs at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, California, March 23, 1975.
Alvan Meyerowtiz | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

The Nobel Prize committee has failed to award several key authors and playwrights, despite their influence on literature and culture. Writers who have never received the Nobel Prize for Literature include James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, Mark Twain, George Orwell and Arthur Miller.

There was further controversy Thursday when singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 prize for literature.

In a 2012 article for the Wall Street Journal, author Joseph Epstein criticized the award.

"Would the literary world be better off without the Nobel Prize in Literature? Certainly it would be no worse off without the Nobel, for as currently awarded the prize neither sets a true standard for literary production nor raises the prestige of literature itself," he said.