The Man Behind the Nobel Prize
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize. But who was Alfred Nobel? Articles, photographs, a slide show and poetry written by Nobel himself are presented here to give a glimpse of a man whose varied interests are reflected in the prize he established. Meet Alfred Nobel - scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, author and pacifist.
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 21, 1833. His family was descended from Olof Rudbeck, the best-known technical genius in Sweden in the 17th century, an era in which Sweden was a great power in northern Europe. Nobel was fluent in several languages, and wrote poetry and drama. Nobel was also very interested in social and peace-related issues, and held views that were considered radical during his time.
Alfred Nobel Timeline
|1833||Alfred Nobel is born in Stockholm, Sweden. In the same year, his father – Immanuel Nobel – goes bankrupt.|
|1837||Immanuel Nobel travels to Finland and then to St Petersburg, Russia, where he starts a mechanical workshop; he leaves his family behind in Sweden.|
|1842||The Nobel family is reunited in St Petersburg.|
|1850-1852||Alfred Nobel goes to Paris and works for one year in the laboratory of T. Jules Pelouze. He also travels to Italy, Germany and the United States (US).|
|1853-1856||The Crimean War rages. |
The Nobel Company flourishes at first, but goes bankrupt as the war ends and the Russian military cancels orders.
Alfred Nobel searches desperately for new products. Nikolai N. Zinin, Nobel's chemistry teacher, reminds him of nitroglycerin.
|1862||Alfred Nobel starts his experiments with nitroglycerin.|
|1863||Nobel obtains the first patent on nitroglycerin (blasting oil) as an industrial explosive. He develops and patents a detonator (blasting cap) for triggering the explosion of nitroglycerin. He also moves to Stockholm, where he continues his experiments.|
|1864||Emil, Alfred Nobel's brother, is killed during the preparation of nitroglycerin at Heleneborg, Stockholm. |
Nobel continues his experiments and forms the company Nitroglycerin AB in Stockholm, Sweden.
|1865||Alfred Nobel improves the blasting cap design and moves to Germany to set up the Alfred Nobel & Co Factory in Krümmel near Hamburg.|
|1866||Nobel establishes the United States Blasting Oil Company in the US. |
A violent explosion destroys the Krümmel plant. Experimenting on a raft anchored on the river Elbe, Alfred Nobel tries to make nitroglycerin safer to handle. He finds that nitroglycerin is stabilized by the addition of kieselguhr (a siliceous deposit; also known as diatomaceous earth), and calls this mixture dynamite.
|1867||Alfred Nobel obtains a patent for dynamite.|
|1871||Nobel establishes the British Dynamite Company (Ardeer, Scotland, UK). In 1877 the company name is changed to Nobel's Explosives Company.|
|1872||Immanuel, Alfred Nobel's father, passes away.|
|1873||At the age of 40 Alfred Nobel is a wealthy man. He moves to Paris and settles at Avenue Malakoff. |
The manufacture of nitroglycerin and dynamite starts at Ardeer.
|1875||Alfred Nobel invents blasting gelatine in Paris and patents it in 1876. He establishes Société Générale pour la Fabrication de la Dynamite in Paris, France.|
|1876||Dynamitaktiengesellschaft (DAG), formerly Alfred Nobel & Co (Hamburg, Germany), is formed. |
Alfred Nobel advertises for a housekeeper/personal secretary, meets with Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau (later von Suttner) and hires her. She leaves his employment after a short time and becomes a leading peace activist.
|1880||Dynamite Nobel is formed by merging Nobel's Italian and Swiss companies.|
|1881||Alfred Nobel buys an estate and laboratory at Sevran outside Paris.|
|1885||German Union is formed by merging DAG and a group of German dynamite companies.|
|1886||Nobel-Dynamite Trust Co (London, UK) is formed by merging DAG and the Nobel's Explosives Company.|
|1887||Nobel obtains a patent for the blasting powder "ballistite" in France.|
|1889||Andriette, Alfred Nobel's mother, passes away.|
|1891||Alfred Nobel leaves Paris and settles in San Remo, Italy, after a dispute with the French government over ballistite.|
|1893||Alfred Nobel hires Ragnar Sohlman, who he later names executor of his will and testament.|
|1894||Alfred Nobel buys a small machine works (Bofors-Gullspång) and a manor (Björkborn) at Karlskoga, Sweden.|
|1895||The third and final will of Alfred Nobel is signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris.|
|1896||Alfred Nobel dies at his home in San Remo, Italy, on 10 December 1896.|
On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will in Paris. When it was opened and read after his death, the will caused a lot of controversy both in Sweden and internationally, as Nobel had left much of his wealth for the establishment of a prize! His family opposed the establishment of the Nobel Prize, and the prize awarders he named refused to do what he had requested in his will. It was five years before the first Nobel Prize could be awarded in 1901.
Full text of Alfred Nobel's WillI, the undersigned, Alfred Bernhard Nobel, do hereby, after mature deliberation, declare the following to be my last Will and Testament with respect to such property as may be left by me at the time of my death:
To my nephews, Hjalmar and Ludvig Nobel, the sons of my brother Robert Nobel, I bequeath the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Crowns each;
To my nephew Emanuel Nobel, the sum of Three Hundred Thousand, and to my niece Mina Nobel, One Hundred Thousand Crowns;
To my brother Robert Nobel's daughters, Ingeborg and Tyra, the sum of One Hundred Thousand Crowns each;
Miss Olga Boettger, at present staying with Mrs Brand, 10 Rue St Florentin, Paris, will receive One Hundred Thousand Francs;
Mrs Sofie Kapy von Kapivar, whose address is known to the Anglo-Oesterreichische Bank in Vienna, is hereby entitled to an annuity of 6000 Florins Ö.W. which is paid to her by the said Bank, and to this end I have deposited in this Bank the amount of 150,000 Fl. in Hungarian State Bonds;
Mr Alarik Liedbeck, presently living at 26 Sturegatan, Stockholm, will receive One Hundred Thousand Crowns;
Miss Elise Antun, presently living at 32 Rue de Lubeck, Paris, is entitled to an annuity of Two Thousand Five Hundred Francs. In addition, Forty Eight Thousand Francs owned by her are at present in my custody, and shall be refunded;
Mr Alfred Hammond, Waterford, Texas, U.S.A. will receive Ten Thousand Dollars;
The Misses Emy and Marie Winkelmann, Potsdamerstrasse, 51, Berlin, will receive Fifty Thousand Marks each;
Mrs Gaucher, 2 bis Boulevard du Viaduc, Nimes, France will receive One Hundred Thousand Francs;
My servants, Auguste Oswald and his wife Alphonse Tournand, employed in my laboratory at San Remo, will each receive an annuity of One Thousand Francs;
My former servant, Joseph Girardot, 5, Place St. Laurent, Châlons sur Saône, is entitled to an annuity of Five Hundred Francs, and my former gardener, Jean Lecof, at present with Mrs Desoutter, receveur Curaliste, Mesnil, Aubry pour Ecouen, S.& O., France, will receive an annuity of Three Hundred Francs;
Mr Georges Fehrenbach, 2, Rue Compiègne, Paris, is entitled to an annual pension of Five Thousand Francs from January 1, 1896 to January 1, 1899, when the said pension shall discontinue;
A sum of Twenty Thousand Crowns each, which has been placed in my custody, is the property of my brother's children, Hjalmar, Ludvig, Ingeborg and Tyra, and shall be repaid to them.
The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute 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 on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: 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 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 congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical work by the Caroline Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not.
As Executors of my testamentary dispositions, I hereby appoint Mr Ragnar Sohlman, resident at Bofors, Värmland, and Mr Rudolf Lilljequist, 31 Malmskillnadsgatan, Stockholm, and at Bengtsfors near Uddevalla. To compensate for their pains and attention, I grant to Mr Ragnar Sohlman, who will presumably have to devote most time to this matter, One Hundred Thousand Crowns, and to Mr Rudolf Lilljequist, Fifty Thousand Crowns;
At the present time, my property consists in part of real estate in Paris and San Remo, and in part of securities deposited as follows: with The Union Bank of Scotland Ltd in Glasgow and London, Le Crédit Lyonnais, Comptoir National d'Escompte, and with Alphen Messin & Co. in Paris; with the stockbroker M.V. Peter of Banque Transatlantique, also in Paris; with Direction der Disconto Gesellschaft and Joseph Goldschmidt & Cie, Berlin; with the Russian Central Bank, and with Mr Emanuel Nobel in Petersburg; with Skandinaviska Kredit Aktiebolaget in Gothenburg and Stockholm, and in my strong-box at 59, Avenue Malakoff, Paris; further to this are accounts receivable, patents, patent fees or so-called royalties etc. in connection with which my Executors will find full information in my papers and books.
This Will and Testament is up to now the only one valid, and revokes all my previous testamentary dispositions, should any such exist after my death.
Finally, it is my express wish that following my death my veins shall be opened, and when this has been done and competent Doctors have confirmed clear signs of death, my remains shall be cremated in a so-called crematorium.
Paris, 27 November, 1895
Alfred Bernhard Nobel
That Mr Alfred Bernhard Nobel, being of sound mind, has of his own free will declared the above to be his last Will and Testament, and that he has signed the same, we have, in his presence and the presence of each other, hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses:
Paris: 84 Boulevard Haussmann
R. W. Strehlenert
4, Passage Caroline
8, Rue Auber, Paris
4, Passage Caroline
|Alfred Nobel's will.|