The Lesson for Alfred Nobel is a lesson for us all

Earlier this month, people all over the world were excited to know who would win the Nobel Prizes and there was a huge excitement especially in India, when Indian-Origin Abhijit Banerjee won it for Economics.

It is amusing to know that the awardees are remembered by the common populace mostly for winning the Nobel Prize than for what they won. Such is the fame Nobel Prize has but if we trace how the Prize originated, we would find ourselves a little shocked.

Alfred Nobel instituted the award after having an encounter with the way he would be remembered in the world. Alfred Nobel was an extremely successful inventor and a businessman, known for inventing the Dynamite.

Being an industrialist who had interest in construction industry, Alfred invented the dynamite to improve mining and construction Industry but his invention was not received as a tool of development and many had presumptions that were mostly paranoid. On the side of fortunes, Alfred became enormously rich.

When his brother Ludvig died,  a French Newspaper mistook Alfred for his brother ran an obituary titled “The Tradesman of Death”, Alfred was hurt to see how he will be remembered by the world. Deeply wounded after knowing this, he set out to set his legacy straight, and that leads to the birth of Nobel Prize.

Elaborating on how he turned world’s opinion about himself, historian Molly Oldfield writes:

“Nobel had a vision of the future that might be, and he decided to change his destiny. He thought for a while about what to do. Then, on November 27, 1895, he took action. He went to the Swedish Norwegian Club in the Marais in Paris, sat down at a writing desk — which is still there (the venue is now called simply the Swedish Club) — and wrote his last will and testament.

Over four pages, he set out what he wanted to give to his relatives — he had no children — and to his staff. He asked that the rest of his estate be invested into a fund, “the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”

The interest was to be divided into five equal parts and each part given to the person who had made the most important discovery each year in four fields and, finally, “one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congress” — the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred, though unmarried and had no children, earned a reputation in the later years, which even after 185 years, perpetuates and glorifies him.

When humanity cherishes a person’s deeds and remembers him/her for generations; that person certainly has etched his name eternity. Right now, there are 7.7 Billion People (and counting) in the world; how many are remembered on a global level?  We only remember a few thousands.

Of course some are remembered for their notoriety while great many fade in the sands of time. To be remembered for good things is lovely; to do good deeds is important. Alfred Nobel changed his story before it was to become history. If you who are reading this are yet to do some deeds of benevolence, begin now.

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