In 1888, when a humble Swede by the name of Ludwig Nobel died, the French press confused him with his younger brother Alfred and ran an obituary celebrating the demise of this “Tradesman of Death.” Consider this "Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Having the rare misfortune of reading his obituary while still alive, Alfred found himself heartbroken and determined to change his life’s story before it was too late.
Alfred Noble was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden who was to become a famous scientist, inventor, businessman, writer and founder of the Nobel Prizes. He was one of 4 sons, naturally brilliant, by the age of 17, Alfred could speak and write in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. In his early years Alfred concentrated on developing nitro-glycerine as an explosive. Sadly, these experiments resulted in accidents that killed several people, including Alfred’s younger brother, Emil. His experiments ultimately resulted in the discovery of Dynamite, which made him very rich and also very hated. He put up factories in 90 different places. He lived in Paris but often travelled to his factories in more than 20 countries. He was once described as “Europe’s richest vagabond.” He also experimented in making synthetic rubber and leather and artificial silk. By the time of his death he had 355 patents.
Alfred died in San Remo, Italy on December 10, 1896. In his last will and testament, he wrote that much of his fortune was to be used to give prizes to those who have done their best for humanity in the field of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature were first awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and the Peace Prize in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway.
What Alfred did was unique in many ways – 94% of his wealth was to go to the foundation, he did not limit the prize to a particular nationality - they were to be given to global achievers and he set up a foundation that would carry on his wishes for a long time after he was gone. The assets of the foundation have grown to more than half a billion dollars today in spite of distributing a lot of money to winners of the prize each year.
Will our story make for an inspirational read when we leave this world? Well it will be a summary of what we are doing while we are alive so let’s keep working on this masterpiece!!