There are all kinds of awards that recognize achievement in the sciences, in the arts, and in many areas of human endeavors. But perhaps none of them are as famous as the Nobel Prize.
Perhaps it is the tradition of more than 100 years that they have, perhaps it is because in the same set of awards there are science, art and even other activities such as the promotion of peace. Or maybe it’s all of that combined, with its origin coming from a person’s last will.
That’s right, the Nobel prizes are the result of an idea he had Alfred Nobel, a few years before he died and which he left in his will.
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and inventor who lived in the 19th century. His best known invention is the dynamite: a safe way to handle nitroglycerin, as it was mixed with inert substances such as clays.
The greater stability of dynamite made it a very popular explosive, for demolitions and mining, but its use also extended to military applications, such as artillery weapons.
Alfred Nobel received much criticism in life, because most of his fortune came from dynamite and other explosives that he patented. In addition, for a time he owned the Swedish company Bofors, which he turned into an industry to produce cannons and other weapons, activities that definitely paid off very well economically.
Although he surely knew that his work was not admired by everyone, something that left him in no doubt was that had the opportunity to read his obituary.
It is not that Nobel had a supernatural experience, but that, in 1888, when Ludvig Nobel, his brother, died, A French newspaper thought it was Alfred who had died and they wrote his obituary. One not very nice indeed, because they called him “merchant of death.”
It is not so difficult to assume that reading something of yourself must have consequences. And in this case the consequence was the Nobel prizes.
A good idea
In the will that Alfred Nobel signed in 1895, a year before his death, he established that his fortune, was invested to establish a fund with which, year after year, the most outstanding people in certain areas would be rewarded.
The choice of these areas had to do with Nobel’s own interests: chemistry, because he was a chemist, physics because he considered it the most outstanding science among all. And his interest in medicine grew out of his dealings with various physicians and physiologists of his time.
Although he devoted himself to science and technology, Nobel might have preferred to be a full-time writer: wrote some dramatic plays and poems, for which he also instituted a literature prize.
Of course, the peace prize must have originated from some guilt he must have felt for his contribution to the war industry.
On December 10, 1896, he died in San Remo, Italy.. Shortly after, the content of his will became known, which apparently was more explosive than dynamite: he had great opposition from his direct family, mainly nephews, because he did not marry or have children.
But, thanks to the insistence of the Swedish chemist Ragnar Sohlman, four years later the Nobel Foundation was established and in 1901 the first Nobel prizes were awarded.
If now Nobel could see the significance of his legacy, surely he would be satisfied, as he once said: “If I had a thousand ideas and only one turned out to be good, I would be satisfied.”
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Nobel Prize: Who and why had the idea to create it?