Some people come in this world, live for 60-70 years and die, but some people live forever. Alfred Nobel was one such person. The act by which he created fund for the Nobel Prize is unparallel in history.
Alfred Nobel was born on October 21, 1833 to a family in Stockholm, Sweden. His father was Immanuel Nobel and his mother was Andretti Ahlsell Nobel. Alfred’s father was engineer and an inventor. He built bridges and buildings and experimented with different ways of blasting rocks. During his education in St. Petesburg, Alfred Nobel was taught by outstanding private tutors, mainly chemistry and physics, but also literature and philosophy. He proved to be an intelligent student, exceptionally gifted, but quiet an introvert. In his early years he was most interested in literature, chemistry and physics. He learnt a great deal on his own, which included learning French, by translating Voltaire first into Swedish and then back into French.
His father wanted his sons to follow his footsteps and was not pleased with Alfred’s interest in poetry. He decided to send the young Alfred to Paris, to pursue study engineering and become a chemical engineer. In Paris, Alfred worked in the private laboratory of Professor T.J. Pelouze, a famous chemist. There, he met a young Italian chemist, Ascanio Sobrero. Three years earlier, Sobrero had invented nitroglycerine, a highly explosive liquid. Alfred became very interested in nitroglycerine and how it could be used in the work of construction. Alfred concentrated on developing nitroglycerine as an explosive. Sadly, these experiments resulted in accidents that killed several people, including Alfred’s younger brother, E-mail.
The explosive plant at Vinterviken (Winter Bay) just outside Stockholm, Nitroglycerin Aktiebolaget, was Alfred Nobel’s very first company. The manufacture of nitroglycerine on an industrial scale started there as early as 1865, and for more than fifty years the Vinterviken factory was to deliver Nobel explosives and blasting devices of various kinds for civil engineering, with a steadily expanding capacity. Alfred Nobel’s revolutionary inventions—the blasting cap and dynamite, patented in 1863 and 1867 respectively-formed the basis for operations at Vinterviken. Dynamite was Alfred Nobel’s answer to safety demands.
Although Nobel belonged to the realm of his work and inventions, his interest was in literature and writing. After his death, he left a private library of \over one thousand and five hundred volumes, mostly fiction, in the original language. He apparently disliked naturalism, however, he did appreciate the practicality and psychological analysis in ‘Le Pere Goriot’ (Father Goriot), ‘Eugenie Grandet’, written by Balzac, ‘Madame Bovary’, written by Flaubert and Maupassant’s sophisticated short stories.
Though he resided in Paris, he traveled regularly to his factories, which were spread over more than twenty countries. He was once described as ‘Europe’s richest vagabond.’ He also experimented and tried to make synthetic rubber, leather and artificial silk. By the time of his death, in 1896, he had three hundred and fifty five patents in his name. Noble’s collection of books bears testimony to both the depth and breadth of his reading. He also read philosophy, history, religion and the history of science. He was familiar with Voltaire and Rousseau, the philosophers of Enlightenment. Towards the end of his life, when his inventions and business activities left him more time, he drafted the outline of a satirical comedy, The Patent Bacillus (1895) and published a tragedy, Nemesis (1896). Nobel’s will, dated 1895, is the final testimony to his lifelong love of poetry; a some of the prizes was to be awarded to ‘the person who shall have produced, in the field of literature, the most outstanding work in an ideal direction. Nobel’s self-denial and misanthropy were, however, balanced by a solidly grounded belief in progress.
During most of his life, Alfred Nobel suffered from poor health. He complained of indigestion, headaches and occasional spells of depression. Towards the end of his life, Alfred Nobel suffered from a heart condition marked by spasms of unbearable pain (angina pectoris). Then he suffered a stroke, was partly paralyzed and died at San Remo at 2:00 am on December 10, 1896, in the villa that was once called ‘My Nest’. When Alfred Nobel’s will was made known after his death, it was disclosed that he had established a special peace prize. Alfred Nobel’s will prescribed that the Peace Prize was to be awarded by the Norwegian Parliament and should go to the person, who accomplished ‘the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion of peace congresses’. In his will Alfred Nobel specified that the bulk of his estate should be deposited in a fund, the interest of which should be divided into four parts and to be used for Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace.
A commemorative plaque mounted on a hillside in Vinterviken recalls Nobel’s accomplishments and honors, his epoch-making inventions and all those who sacrificed their lives at the explosive factory.