A Shakespeare tragedy? No, it is a name that was coined in 1888 by a French newspaper for Dr. Alfred Nobel. Does that last name sound familiar? Yes, it should, because of the Nobel Peace Prizes – a set of five annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances. How can someone who has a moniker “The Merchant of Death” also be known as the founder of the Nobel Foundation? Each person has a purpose and path in their life. Alfred Nobel was an inventor, an industrialist and a literary person who published poetry and works of drama – a true renaissance man of the 1800s. Dr. Nobel was also the inventor of dynamite, detonators and blasting caps, which were useful in construction, mining, quarries, demolition and warfare. Dynamite was more stable than black powder therefore it was in great demand. With these discoveries his fortunes grew. He had a fascination for combining nitroglycerin with other chemicals, which led to a more stable blasting gelatin named Gelignite, which was safer to handle and had more explosive power. Dr. Nobel created a new engineering standard for mining and, again, his fortune increased. Another of his inventions was Ballistite – a smokeless propellant that is still effective in fueling rockets today. In 1888, Dr. Alfred Nobel became known as “The Merchant of Death” when a French newspaper mistook his brother’s death for his. The article not only stated that “The Merchant of Death” was dead, but it went on to say that Dr. Alfred Nobel had become rich by finding more ways to kill more people faster than ever before. This article really affected him. Since he truly was rich and famous for inventing explosives used in industry and warfare, he began to wonder how people would perceive him after his death. This may have been the turning point in his life. He wanted people to remember him as using his wealth for the betterment of society. On November 27, 1895 he signed his last Will and Testament and 94% of his assets were set aside for the Nobel Foundation. He was rich beyond imagination – before he died he was able to build 90 armament factories and laboratories throughout 20 countries – so 94% of his fortune was a lot! Many of these companies still exist as industrial enterprises throughout Europe. Today, the Nobel prize is the highest honor in the world and the monetary prize that accompanies it is just over one million dollars. Dr. Alfred Nobel’s path of life went from destructive to constructive when he found a way to reward peoples’ good deeds, and ultimately took control of his own legacy through positive and generous contributions. Maybe we all should think about how we might be remembered after our death and begin living a life now that will produce a good and positive legacy when we are gone.
Posted in: Words of Wisdom