The Story Of Alfred Nobel, The Benefactor of the Nobel Prize

By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN Group

KOLKATA: The Nobel Prize  has unanimously been regarded as one of the most prestigious awards worldwide for more than a century. It would be interesting to know how the internationally recognised award came to be initiated. 

The Nobel Prize has been named after Alfred Bernhard Nobel who was born on 21 October,1833 in Stockholm, Germany. He was the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other powerful explosives.

In order to understand how and why the award came to be given, we have to flip through the pages of History and study the period of the Crimean War. Nobel’s father at that time,suffered great financial losses in his business of building explosive mines and other military equipment.

Alfred Nobel, being the brilliant chemist that he was, experimented with explosives inventing a blasting cap,an improved detonator that modernised the use of explosives.

In 1864, his nitroglycerin factory exploded causing the death of his younger brother along with some workers. In1867,he produced a safer-to-handle but highly explosive mixture that he named dynamite.

Nobel made a fortune with his patents on dynamite as his invention began to be used in warfare as well as for construction purposes.

In 1875, Nobel created a more powerful form of dynamite blasting gelatin and in 1887 introduced ballistite, a smoke-free nitroglycerin powder.

Another brother of his died  at the time in France. A newspaper, having mistaken his brother to be him wrote, ‘ The Merchant of Death is dead.’ This proved to be an eye-opener for him, as some say.

How the Nobel Prize came into being

Let us unearth how, why and when the first Nobel Prize came to be awarded.

The realisation that his inventions had heralded doom upon mankind was devastating for him and Alfred  was heartbroken. ‘Contentment is the only real wealth,’ he commented.

In his will, he instructed that a major portion of his fortune be placed in a fund and the interest of which “ be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

Truth Dawns On Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel is believed to have said, “On the day when two army corps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, probably all civilized nations will recoil with horror and disband their troops.”

The first Nobel prizes were thus awarded on December 10, in 1901 in Stockholm,Sweden in the spheres of Physics,Chemistry, Medicine,Literature as well as Peace. In 1969, a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was first awarded.

The Nobel Prize Now

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decides the prizes in Physics, Chemistry, and Economic Science ; the Swedish Royal Caroline Medico-Surgical Institute determines the Physiology or Medicine award; the Swedish Academy chooses Literature; and a Committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament awards the Peace prize.

The Nobel Prizes are still presented annually on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. Famous personalities that have been recipients of the prestigious award include Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Barack Obama , Marie Curie, Bernard Shaw and T.S Eliot among others.


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