The Nobel Prize: The Birth of a Legacy

Alfred E. Nobel, the creator of one of life’s greatest prizes for human achievement, was determined to change how he was perceived in the eyes of the world, and created a most inspiring legacy. One morning in 1888, Alfred read the headlines of the newspaper that read, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” He was reading his own obituary!
In reality, it was his brother who had died, but the journalist had mistaken the name and wrote a scathing article about the devastation and destruction left behind by Alfred, an avid inventor, holding 355 patents for ballistics and other armaments and the creator of dynamite. He was deeply dismayed by how humanity condemned his achievements and his fortune amassed from over 100 factories producing explosives and war supplies.                                                                                                   

With determination and inspired action to change the perception of humanity, he went to work exploring the possibility of creating a more meaningful legacy. He wrote out his will, bequeathing a limited sum to relatives and staff, with the remainder of his estate to be invested into a fund, “the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” The interest was to be divided into five equal parts and each part given to the person who had made the most important discovery each year in each of five fields.

In the end, Alfred E Nobel has created a legacy promoting and providing generous support and world-wide acknowledgement. As he wrote, “one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and finally the most famous of all…“one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congress.”