Text_5A ALFRED NOBEL – A MAN OF CONTRASTS

Alfred Nobel, the great Swedish inventor and industrialist, was a man of many contrasts. He was the son of a bankrupt, but became a millionaire, a scientist who cared for literature, an industrialist who managed to remain an idealist. He made a fortune but lived a simple life, and although cheerful in company he was often sad when remained alone. A lover of mankind, he never had a wife or family to love him; a patriotic son of his native land, he died alone in a foreign country. He invented a new explosive, dynamite, to improve the peacetime industries of mining and road building, but saw it used as a weapon of war to kill and injure people. During his useful life he often felt he was useless. World-famous for his works, he was never personally well-known, for while he lived he avoided publicity. He never expected any reward for what he had done. He once said that he did not see that he had deserved any fame and that he had no taste for it. However, since his death, his name has brought fame and glory to others.

He was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833 but moved to Russia with his parents in 1842, where his father, Emmanuel, made a strong position for himself in the engineering industry. Emmanuel Nobel invented the landmine and got plenty of money for it from government orders during the Crimean War, but then, quite suddenly went bankrupt. Most of the family went back to Sweden in 1859. Four years later Alfred returned there too, beginning his own study of explosives in his father’s laboratory. It so occurred that he had never been to school or University but had studied privately and by the time he was twenty was a skilful chemist and excellent linguist having mastered Swedish, Russian, German, French and English.

Like his father, Alfred Nobel was imaginative and inventive, but he had better luck in business and showed more financial sense. He was quick to see industrial openings for his scientific inventions and built up over 80 companies in 20 different countries. Indeed his greatness lay in his outstanding ability to combine the qualities of an original scientist with those of a forward-looking industrialist.

But Nobel was never really concerned about making money or even making scientific discoveries. Seldom happy, he was always searching for a meaning to life, and from his youth had taken a serious interest in literature and philosophy. Probably because he could not find ordinary human love – he never married – he began to care deeply about the whole mankind. He took every opportunity to help the pool: he used to say that he would rather take care of the stomachs of the living than the glory of the dead in the form of stone memorials. His greatest wish, however, was to see an to wars, and thus peace between nations; and he spent much time and money working for the cause until his death in Italy in 1896. His famous will, in which he left money to provide prizes for outstanding work in physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, economics, literature and promotion of world peace is a memorial to his interests and ideals. And so the man who often believed that he was useless and had done little to justify his life is remembered and respected long after his death. Nobel’s ideals which he expressed long before the threat of nuclear war have become the ideals of all progressive people of the world.



According to Nobel’s will the capital was to be safely invested to form a fund. The interest on this fund is to be distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who, during the previous year did work of the greatest use to mankind within the field of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, economics, literature and to the person who has done the most for brotherhood between nations, for the abolition or reduction of permanent armies and for the organization and encouragement of peace conferences.

In his will Nobel wrote that it was his film wish that in choosing the prize winner no consideration should be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy should receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not. This will was written in Paris, on November 27, 1895.

Since Nobel’s death many outstanding scientists, writers and public figures from different countries have become Nobel prize winners.


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