Alfred Nobel (About this sound listen (help·info)) was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, into a family of engineers.He was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. In 1894, Nobel purchased the Bofors iron and steel mill, which he made into a major armaments manufacturer. Nobel also invented ballistite. This invention was a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially the British smokeless powder cordite. As a consequence of his patent claims, Nobel was eventually involved in a patent infringement lawsuit over cordite. Nobel amassed a fortune during his lifetime, with most of his wealth from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous.
In 1888, Nobel was astonished to read his own obituary, titled The merchant of death is dead, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. The article disconcerted Nobel and made him apprehensive about how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will.On 10 December 1896, Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was 63 years old.
Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. He composed the last over a year before he died, signing it at the Swedish–Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895.To widespread astonishment, Nobel’s last will specified that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace.Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million SEK (c. US$186 million, €150 million in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes.Because of scepticism surrounding the will, it was not until 26 April 1897 that it was approved by the Storting in Norway.The executors of Nobel’s will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel’s fortune and organise the award of prizes.
Nobel’s instructions named a Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize, the members of whom were appointed shortly after the will was approved in April 1897. Soon thereafter, the other prize-awarding organisations were designated or established. These were Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June.The Nobel Foundation reached an agreement on guidelines for how the prizes should be awarded; and, in 1900, the Nobel Foundation’s newly created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II.In 1905, the personal union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved.
Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins
Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1962
These three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for their discovery of the “double helix” structure of DNA nine years earlier.
The award was deemed controversial because of the death of Rosalind Franklin, a collaborator with Wilkins, four years earlier. Nobel foundation rules, which state the prizes cannot be given posthumously, meant her work was not recognised.
Sir Clive Granger
Nobel Prize in Economy, 2003
The Welsh economist won the 2003 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his methods of analysing economic statistics, which revolutionised the way economists interpret financial data.
His prize was shared with Robert Engle III, for his research in a similar area.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1905
Often referred to as the father of bacteriology, Robert Koch identified the causative agents of three of the 20th century’s most fatal diseases: tuberculosis, anthrax and cholera.
His postulates about understanding whether a specific bacteria causes disease are still used today, and his practices greatly improved the lab techniques and technologies used to identify the deadly microbes.
Nobel Prize in Physics, 1918
Max Planck revolutionized the world by creating quantum theory, changing how scientists viewed subatomic processes and the universe.
He also worked on black-body radiation, and discovered the proportional constant between the energy of a photon and the frequency of its electromagnetic wave, which is now known as Plank’s Constant.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1954, and Nobel Peace Prize, 1962
One of the few people to receive two Nobel Prizes, Linus Pauling’s first prize was for his research on chemical bonds and their role in complex substances, as well as the nature of ionic and covalent bonds.He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism against weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear arms race. He was also known as a proponent of megavitiamin therapy and using Vitamin C to help cure cancer.
Nobel Prize in Literature, 1954
It’s difficult to see the lasting effects of literature on the public consciousness. Those who have won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature have all made an impact on the literary world. Still, none have left such a mark as Ernest Hemingway.
Praised by the Nobel Committee for his “mastery of the art of narrative,” Hemingway wrote classics such as The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. His works are still read the world over by both children and adults.
Nobel Peace Prize, 1970
Known as father of the “green revolution,” Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Price due to his work developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat.
He took this crop to India, Pakistan and Mexico, which helped save many people from starvation. In essence, his life was dedicated to trying to solve world hunger by creating stronger, better crops.
Nobel Prize in Economics, 1991
Ronald Coase described himself as an accidental economist, as he spent the majority of his career at the University of Chicago as a law professor. His article “The Nature of the Firm” changed the way economists understood why people create their own companies.
Another of his papers, “The Problem of Social Cost,” examined the lack of effectiveness of the use of government intervention to restrain people and companies from using harmful practices. It also altered the way economists viewed property rights and licenses.
The Dalai Lama
Nobel Prize in Peace, 1989
In his struggle for the liberation of Tibet he consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.
Nobel Prize in Literature, 1961
Born in Travnik in central Bosnia, Andrić attended gymnasium in Sarajevo. He was politically active in the pro-Yugoslav youth organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for which he was arrested and held prisoner by Austro-Hungarian authorities during World War I. After the war, he studied philosophy and history at universities in Zagreb, Vienna, Kraków and Graz. After education, he moved to Belgrade and entered a career of a civil servant and a diplomat of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, serving in embassies and consulates across Europe. In 1939 he was appointed an ambassador in Germany, and his tenure ended in 1941 with the German invasion of Yugoslavia. During World War II, he lived quietly in Belgrade writing some of his most important works. Andrić held a number of ceremonial posts in the new Communist government of Yugoslavia. In 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country”. He died in Belgrade in 1975.