Leaving a Legacy: How a Will Created the Nobel Prizes - Boyum Law
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Leaving a Legacy: How a Will Created the Nobel Prizes

Receiving a Nobel Prize is an annual honor bestowed upon the men and women who make valuable contributions to the world in five categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. Over one hundred years of prize winners – otherwise known as Laureates – have received recognition for their work. However, Alfred Nobel, the man behind the prize, was not warmly regarded for his own life’s work. Read on to discover how a journalist’s mistake led “the tradesman of death” to write a will creating a more noble legacy.

Alfred Nobel, His Work, and Bad Reporting

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, inventor, engineer, and author. He held 355 patents and invented dynamite. When his brother, Ludwig, died in 1888, a mix up occurred and the French press printed an unflattering epitaph of Alfred. Since inventing dynamite was how Alfred amassed his fortune, he was nicknamed “the tradesman of death” in the epitaph. Witnessing his unflattering legacy while still alive made Alfred want to change how he was viewed.

Creation of the Nobel Prizes

In order to change his legacy, Alfred went to the Swedish Norwegian Club and wrote his own will. Some of his estate was left to his family and staff, but the rest was to be invested into a fund. The interest of the fund was meant to be divided equally between the five Noble Prize categories created within his will. Alfred had four men at the club sign his will as witnesses.

Execution of the Will

Alfred died a year after writing his will. His assistant, Ragnar Sohlman, was the estate’s executor. Working to make the Nobel Prizes a reality was difficult for Sohlman. He faced resistance from the Nobel family because they were shocked by Alfred’s will. The Swedish royal family was angry as well. They called the prizes unpatriotic because people of all nationalities could receive the awards. Five years after Alfred’s death, the first Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded in 1901. His will was the document that made it all possible.