Alfred Nobel

Who Was Alfred Nobel?

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. Nobel is also the man after whom the Nobel Prize is named. Nobel, born in 1833 in Stockholm, made a fortune in the explosives business.

He patented the explosive nitroglycerin, founded several companies, and patented dynamite and gelignite, among other accomplishments. Shortly after Nobel died in 1896, the Nobel Prize came into existence. He left much of his large estate built on the proceeds of explosives and munitions to establish the prize, which was first awarded in 1901.

Key Takeaways

  • Alfred Nobel created the Nobel Prize using the fortune he had built in the explosives business.
  • Although he was a declared pacifist, many of Nobel's inventions helped make war more devastating.
  • It is believed that the Nobel Prize was an attempt by Nobel to leave a better legacy in the world than having improved military weaponry through his ingenuity.
  • Alfred Nobel spoke several languages and lived and traveled around the world.
  • Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Milton Friedman are inspirational individuals awarded the Nobel Prize.

Understanding Alfred Nobel

There are many different theories about why the Nobel created the prize. A Nobel Prize winner himself, Albert Einstein, said that "Alfred Nobel invented an explosive more powerful than any then known—an exceedingly effective means of destruction. To atone for this "accomplishment" and to relieve his conscience, he instituted his award for the promotion of peace." Although this is a commonly held belief, it is not confirmed in Nobel's own words.

Nobel did hold the naive belief that once the carnage of targeted explosions was unleashed upon the field, his explosives might bring a swift end to wars and battles. When one of his brothers died in 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly ran "The merchant of death is dead" about Alfred. This event is believed to have played a role in solidifying Nobel's thoughts on using his wealth to create a better legacy.

Alfred Nobel's Influences

Alfred Nobel lived in Sweden, Finland, and Russia and traveled to France, Germany, and the United States. He learned to communicate in several languages, specifically Swedish, Russian, English, French, and German.

While in France, Nobel made contact with Ascanio Sobrero, who had invented an explosive liquid known as nitroglycerin. This meeting later influenced Nobel's work on controlled detonation explosives, leading to his invention of dynamite.

Alfred Nobel patented well over 300 inventions–several of which involved explosives–in the fields of biology, physiology, and optics. His success led him to establish numerous businesses, including Nitroglycerin AB in Stockholm, the Alfred Nobel & Co. Factory in Krümmel, and the United States Blasting Oil Company.

Despite his contributions to explosives technology, Alfred Nobel was a strong promoter of world peace. Countess Bertha Kinsky, another strong advocate of peace, influenced Nobel's pacifist tendencies. The Countess and Nobel became good friends when she worked briefly as his private secretary.

Since 1901, when the first award was given out, the Nobel Prize foundation, and in 2020, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 603 times.

The Nobel Prize

If Nobel intended to rebuild his legacy, it was successful because his name is more closely associated with the peace prize than explosives technology. Upon his death, Alfred Nobel provided approximately over $31 million Swedish krona in an endowment fund to be used as a reward for exceptional work in various fields.

The Nobel prize is given in several subjects, reflecting Nobel's diverse interests and abilities. These subjects are physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and economic sciences. The prize includes a medal, a diploma, and a cash award. The Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, is the organization responsible for overseeing and administering the funds.

Among the many famous recipients of the prize are the aforementioned Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Many influential economists have been recognized with a Nobel Prize from the financial world, including Paul Samuelson, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman.

What Is Alfred Nobel Best Known For Inventing?

Alfred Nobel is best known inventing dynamite and he patented the explosive nitroglycerin.

Why Did Alfred Nobel Create the Nobel Prize?

Alfred Nobel created a trust and wrote out directions to use the money in the trust to create five prizes to honor women and men for their outstanding achievements in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature, and work towards peace. The accomplishments were required to be work that benefited humankind.

How Did Alfred Nobel Get Rich?

Alfred Nobel was born into a wealthy family but he amassed his own fortune in munitions and explosives, among other endeavors, during his lifetime.

How Much Money Did Alfred Nobel Leave in His Will?

Alfred Nobel left over SEK $31 million in his will.

The Bottom Line

A true renaissance man Alfred Bernhard Nobel inspired the Nobel Prize, a collection of five prizes awarded in multiple categories, including the peace prize, to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Nobel built his vast fortune and success on creating munitions and explosives, including patenting nitroglycerin, but he was devoted to the pursuit of peace and considered himself a pacifist.

Alfred Nobel never married nor had any children, and he left his wealth in a trust that was used to fund the Nobel Prizes, awarded annually since 1901.

Article Sources
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