The passing on of Alfred Nobel in 1895 marked the beginning to one of the world’s most prestigious prizes. In his last will, Nobel stated that he wanted his wealth, valued at 31, 5 million Swedish crowns, to be invested in safe securities towards a fund – the Nobel Prize.
Who Was Alfred Nobel?
Born from a humble background, Alfred Nobel rose to become an extraordinary individual. Nobel was born into poverty and was the third of eight children. His father, Emmanuel, was an engineer who later increased his family’s fortunes by developing the first naval mines.
Alfred lived in solitary and spent most of his life making inventions that amassed to 355 patents by the time he passed away. Following Nobel’s death, his executors discovered that he had signed his third and last will. He wanted his wealth to be used to create a fund that would recognize five extraordinary individuals from the disciplines of chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and physics.
Alfred Invents the ‘Dynamite’
For over a millennium, gunpowder was considered the supreme explosive. It was stable and safe. However, after the industrial revolution in the 19th century, activities like mining intensified, which necessitated the development of more powerful explosives.
In 1847, Nobel developed a compound known as nitroglycerin, which was a highly potent explosive. Its volatility made it dangerous and eventually led to fatal accidents. One of Nobel’s experiments led to a crash that killed several individuals, including his younger brother, Emil. Although the government banned the demonstrations, Alfred didn’t give up.
In one of his trials, Alfred discovered that mixing nitroglycerine with fine sand known as kieselguhr converted the liquid into a paste that could be shaped into rods. The rods could be inserted into drilling holes. This invention was made in 1866, and Alfred received a legal patent on the material in the following year. He named it ‘dynamite.’
How Alfred Made His Fortunes
Alfred Nobel was once described as “Europe’s richest vagabond.” Besides the dynamite, Alfred also invented detonating caps. At the time, they were in high demand is the construction industry. Because of this, Nobel set up factories in over 90 locations. He worked intensely in Sweden, Paris, France, Italy, Germany, and Scotland. He lived in Paris but would travel to see his factories regularly.
The First Nobel Prize
Considering how the news met everybody by surprise, it took five years to kick start the project because there was so much to figure out. The first awards were given in Stockholm, Sweden. The event marked the fifth anniversary of Nobel’s passing on.
What Prompted Alfred Nobel to Create the ‘Nobel Prize’ Fund?
There are many theories. One of them lies in the case of mistaken identity. When Alfred’s brother Ludvig died in 1888, a French journalist mistakenly thought it was Nobel. The next day’s newspaper read, “Le Marchand de la mort est mort,” which translates to; “The merchant of death is dead.” Alfred may have been deeply affected by how people perceived him and vowed to leave a worthwhile legacy.
Another theory is that Nobel didn’t have any child to act as a direct heir of his wealth. As this stand, the first theory seems more believable.