The Mistaken Obituary of Alfred Nobel

The Mistaken Obituary of Alfred Nobel

All of us know about the Nobel Peace Prize, but not all of us know why the prize exists. It’s a story I’ve always found fascinating. Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1833. His father, Immanuel Nobel Nobel, was an engineer who had invented modern plywood. He moved the family to St. Petersburg to make a new start with a company making torpedo’s after a bankruptcy in Sweden. Later, when the factory was left to Alfred’s brother, Alfred returned to Sweden.

Ascanio Sobrero had developed nitroglycerin in 1846, but it was very unstable and dangerous. Alfred, who was trained as a chemist, began studying the safe use of nitroglycerin. As a result Alfred developed dynamite which he patented In 1867. When used with blasting caps, he also had developed, it proved to be essential in construction. A manufacturing factory was opened in Germany, France and later in the United States. Alfred ended up owning over three hundred different patents during his life. He became a very wealthy man.

The Peace Price came into existence because a French newspaper mistakenly thought Alfred had died when, in fact, it was his brother who died. Due to their mistake, the paper published an obituary about Alfred which condemned him for his invention of dynamite. It reported "The merchant of death is dead" and went on to say "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Nobel was so distraught about how he as described that he changed his will to set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prices to be awarded annually.

According to Nobel’s will, the peace price should be awarded "to the person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Five categories were established in different fields. At his death in San Remo, Italy in 1896 he left a $9 Million dollar estate to the prize.

Alfred Nobel had a chance to read his obituary before he died and it resulted in a change in the world for the better. So, what about us? What will our obituary say? What should we do to change what we would or wouldn’t like reported in our obituary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *