How do you want to be remembered?
Many years ago, a man was reading his morning newspaper. To his surprise and shock, he read his name in the obituary column. The newspapers had mistakenly reported the death of his brother for him! He was shocked to read news headline about his death. When he regained his composure, He read it to find out what people had said about him.
The obituary included sentences like, “Dynamite King Dies.” and “He was the merchant of death.” The man was the inventor of dynamite and when he read the words “merchant of death,” he asked himself a question, “Is this how I am going to be remembered?” He decided that this was not the way he wanted to be remembered and he decided to change.
From that day on, he started working toward world peace. His name was Alfred Nobel and he is remembered today by the great Nobel Prize, the greatest of all the prizes.
The Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace since 1901. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize.
Born on October 21, 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden, Alfred Nobel worked at his father’s arms factory as a young man. Intellectually inquisitive, he went on to experiment with chemistry and explosives. In 1864, a deadly explosion killed his younger brother. Deeply affected, Nobel developed a safer explosive: dynamite. Alfred Nobel used his vast fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes, which has come to be known for awarding the greatest achievements throughout the world. He died of a stroke in 1896.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born on October 21, 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden, the fourth of Immanuel and Caroline Nobel’s eight children. Alfred was often unhealthy as a child, but he was always lively and curious about the world around him. Although he was a skilled engineer and ready inventor, Alfred’s father struggled to set up a profitable business in Sweden. When Alfred was 4, his father moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to take a job manufacturing explosives. The family followed him in 1842. Alfred’s newly prosperous parents sent him to private tutors in Russia, and he quickly mastered chemistry and became fluent in English, French, German and Russian as well as his native language, Swedish.
An Invention & Legacy
Alfred left Russia at the age of 18. After spending a year in Paris studying chemistry, he moved to the United States. After five years, he returned to Russia and began working in his father’s factory making military equipment for the Crimean War. In 1859, at the war’s end, the company went bankrupt. The family moved back to Sweden, and Alfred soon began experimenting with explosives. In 1864, when Alfred was 29, a huge explosion in the family’s Swedish factory killed five people, including Alfred’s younger brother Emil. Dramatically affected by the event, Nobel set out to develop a safer explosive. In 1867, he patented a mixture of nitroglycerin and an absorbent substance, producing what he named “Dynamite” from the Greek word dunamis, or “power.”
The invention of dynamite revolutionized the mining, construction and demolition industries. Railroad companies could now safety blast through entire mountains, opening up vast stretches of the Earth’s surface to exploration, travel, and trade. As a result, Nobel — who eventually garnered 355 patents on his many inventions — grew enormously wealthy.
Merchant of death
Dynamite, of course, had other uses, and it wasn’t long before military authorities began using it in warfare, including dynamite cannons used during the Spanish-American War. Many people do not associate Nobel with dynamite and the deaths it has caused in warfare.
Nobel found out what others thought of his invention when, in 1888, his brother Ludvig died. Through a journalistic error, Alfred’s obituary was widely printed instead, and he was scorned for being the man who made millions through the deaths of others. Once French newspaper wrote “Le marchand de la mort est mort,” or “the merchant of death is dead.” The obituary went on to describe Nobel as a man “who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
Provoked by this event and dissatisfied with how he felt he might be remembered, Nobel set aside a bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes to honor men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature, and for working toward peace. Sweden’s central bank, Sveriges Riksbank, established the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1968 in honor of Alfred Nobel.
He died of a stroke on December 10, 1896, in San Remo, Italy. After taxes and bequests to individuals, Nobel left 31,225,000 Swedish kronor (equivalent to 250 million U.S. dollars in 2008) to fund the Nobel Prizes.
Marc Lallanilla, The Dark Side of the Nobel Prizes, Livescience.com. Accessed 11.21.16
Biography.com – Alfred Nobel. Accessed 11.21.16