This Wednesday, the 21st of October, in 1833, Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden.
Alfred Nobel was a pacifist at heart but an inventor by nature. He held 355 patents in the fields of electrochemistry, optics, biology and physiology. His first patent was an English patent, filed in 1857, was for a gas meter. title was given to him due to Nobel inventing, and making most of his vast fortune off of, dynamite and
Ironically, his most famous invention was dynamite! He also discovered several other types of explosives, such as “ballistite”, which was the precursor to quite a lot of military grade explosive devices. These discoveries were to make him extremely wealthy. Unfortunately for Alfred, it also resulted in him being known as “ The Merchant of Death”.
Nobel came up with the idea of using his money for the Nobel Prizes after his brother, Ludvig, died in 1888 and a French newspaper mistakenly thought it had been Alfred Nobel himself who had died. The newspaper published the obituary under the title: “The Merchant of Death is Dead”, going on to state: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
When Nobel read this, he began thinking of how to improve his public image after his death and decided on leaving his enormous fortune to fund a set of prizes named after himself.
He established the Nobel Prizes in his will. The prizes, which were first awarded in 1901, have become highly distinguished awards.
There were 5 categories of prize – physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace (economics was added in 1969). Contenders must be nominated and they cannot nominate themselves. The prize consists of a medal, a diploma and a sum of money. They are awarded every 5 years and there are approximately 250 nominations for each prize!
Which one of our laboratories is named after a Nobel Prize winner? Do you know the names and achievements of these other Nobel Prize winners?
If you could be nominated for a Nobel Prize, what would it be for?