Alfred Bernhard Nobel, 1833 - 1896
Photo by G
Born: 21 October 1833, Stockholm, Sweden
Died: 10 December 1896, Sanremo, Italy
Nobel's father Immanuel was the inventor of plywood. The family moved to Saint Petersburg in 1842 where Immanuel manufactured torpedos for the czarist navy. Nobel studied chemistry there and, at age 18, began four years study of chemistry in the US. On returning to Sweden he developed several explosives based on nitroglycerine, such as dynamite and gelignite and turned his steel mills into major weapons plants. Horrified to learn that he was regarded as the "Merchant of Death", his will endowed a foundation to grant prizes to encourage progress in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and the pursuit of peace. Nobel never married, although he had three durable relationships, the last of which was with a Viennese flower girl who he addressed as "Madame Sofie Nobel" in his letters.
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Alfred Nobel quotes:
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- Alfred Nobel - pitiable half-creature, should have been stifled by humane doctor when he made his entry yelling into life. Greatest merits: Keeps his nails clean and is never a burden to anyone. Greatest fault: Lacks family, cheerful spirits, and strong stomach. Greatest and only petition: Not to be buried alive. Greatest sin: Does not worship Mammon. Important events in his life: None. permalink
Letter to his brother Ludwig (1887)
- Contentment is the only real wealth. permalink
- For my part, I wish all guns with their belongings and everything could be sent to hell, which is the proper place for their exhibition and use. permalink
- Hope is nature's veil for hiding truth's nakedness. permalink
- I am a misanthrope, but exceedingly benevolent; I am very cranky, and am a super-idealist.... I can digest philosophy better than food. permalink
- I am not aware that I have deserved any notoriey, and I have no taste for its buzz. permalink
- I intend to leave after my death a large fund for the promotion of the peace idea, but I am skeptical as to its results. permalink
- I would not leave anything to a man of action as he would be tempted to give up work; on the other hand, I would like to help dreamers as they find it difficult to get on in life. permalink
- If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied. permalink
- It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not. permalink
- My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions. As soon as men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace. permalink
- Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses: on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilized nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops. permalink
Letter to Bertha von Suttner
- Second to agriculture, humbug is the biggest industry of our age. permalink
- The capital ... shall form a fund, the interest of which shall be distributed annually as prizes to those persons who shall have rendered humanity the best services during the past year.... One-fifth to the person having made the most important discovery or invention in the science of physics, one-fifth to the person who has made the most eminent discovery or improvement in chemistry, one-fifth to the one having made the most important discovery with regard to physiology or medicine, one-fifth to the person who has produced the most distinguished idealistic work of literature, and one-fifth to the person who has worked the most or best for advancing the fraternization of all nations and for abolishing or diminishing the standing armies as well as for the forming or propagation of committees of peace. permalink
Nobel's will (27 November 1895)
- The savants will write excellent volumes. There will be laureates. But wars will continue just the same until the forces of the circumstances render them impossible. permalink
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