The Surprising Story and Legacy of the Nobel Prize

By Bill High 5 years ago. GenerosityLegacy

It’s a great honor to receive the Nobel Prize.

Since 1901, there have been 585 prizes awarded in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology, Literature and Peace. The prizes stem from the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel.  And just who was Alfred Nobel?

In the mid-1860s, Alfred invented a detonator for explosives.  He continued experimenting with a form of nitroglycerin.  But one of those experiments went awry, and five people died in an explosion at his factory.  Emil, Alfred’s brother, was one of the five who died in the accident.

As a result of this tragedy, Alfred sought to develop a more stable explosive, which he ultimately called dynamite.  In 1888, after his other brother Ludvig passed away, a French newspaper mistakenly thought it was Alfred who died and printed Alfred’s obituary.  Upon reading his own obituary, Alfred was struck by his description as The Merchant of Death and the people who had been killed by his invention.

Determined to change his legacy, Alfred set aside the bulk of his estate, equivalent to $250 million, to fund prizes in the subjects of math, physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.  He died not long after finalizing his will.

Few would recognize today that the Nobel Prize arose from the man who invented dynamite.  But Alfred Nobel’s life illustrates that we all will leave a legacy and we get to choose what kind of legacy it will be.

Bill High
Bill High Bill High is the founder of The Signatry and a national award-winning author & speaker on legacy, family, and philanthropy.

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