Friday, April 20, 2018

The Nobel Prize – The Story Behind How It Came To Be

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor, researcher and a highly acclaimed intellectual who made an impressive fortune from his creation of dynamite in 1866. He then went ahead and brought to life the eminent and prestigious Nobel prizes by way of his Will, which he had despite not having the easy option of using a free Will kit template to do the deed.

On 27th November, 1895 in Paris, Alfred Bernhard Nobel signed his last Will which specified that his fortune was to be used in a fund whose sole intention was to honour and regard those who in the previous year have bestowed the greatest and most supreme benefit to mankind. A year later that is in December 1896 to be exact he died in San Remo, Italy.

Following his death, many people waited with bated breaths for the public declaration of the content of his Will. This was because it was a well-known fact that Nobel had left behind one of the world’s largest personal wealth.

The Nobel Prize

Nobel had announced that the majority of his estate and possessions be devoted towards “safe securities” and that led to some 31.5 million Swedish kronor that amount to 1.7 billion Swedish kronor today to be used to build the Nobel Foundation. The revelation of the content of his Will brought great disappointment to some of his relatives and friends. His Will shed light on the fact that he wanted the prizes to be distributed in 5 equal parts for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace.

He declared the following in his last Will... The Shorter Description
He said that the remainder of his realisable estate in its entirety should be should be disposed off in the following manner:

- The capital had to be invested in a safe security by his executors
- to constitute for a fund and the resulting interest should be utilised to annually award prizes to those who have presented the world with the greatest benefit.
- The amount of interest received from the safe securities fund had to be allocated as follows:

  • One part of the division to the person who has made most important and vital breakthrough or invention in the field of physics and chemistry.
  • One part of the division to the person who has made the highly important discovery within the field of physiology or medicine.
  • One part of the division to the person who has produced the most exceptional work with distinguished tendency and idealistic nature in the field of literature.
  • One part of the division to the person who has given their best contribution to work towards establishing fraternity between nations and the eradication or diminution of standing armies along with the formation and spreading of peace congresses.
The prizes for physics and chemistry are to be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; in case of physiological or medicine prizes the Caroline Institute in Stockholm will do the honours. The Academy in Stockholm is responsible to recognize individuals legible for the Nobel literature prize and for the promoters of peace; the Norwegian Storting will be responsible.

It was Alfred Nobel’s express wish that the no consideration was to be given in regards to national affiliations while awarding the prizes. This was mentioned so that the worthiest individual shall receive the prize.

Contesting of Nobel’s Will
Upon Alfred Nobel’s death, the contents of his Will came across as a shock to his family. It is to be noted that he had no children of his own but his Will was challenged by two of his nephews who tried to declare the document invalid. Even King Oscar II of Sweden condemned Nobel’s Will, deeming it unpatriotic. What added to the confusion was the fact that Nobel hadn’t named executors for his Will nor did he consult any of the institutions he had appointed to award the prizes to make sure if they were on board with his plans.

Approval of Nobel’s Will
In the light of this commotion, subsequent negotiations were held in which the Swedish Government also participated. Executors Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist were appointed and they finally succeeded in ironing out the legal knots. On 29th June, 1900 King Oscar II gave his seal of approval to the statutes of the newly minted Nobel Foundation. This held immense meaning as Alfred Nobel’s grand vision could finally be executed and accomplished. The first Nobel prizes were awarded in Stockholm and Oslo on 10th December, 1901.

The only prize that was not a part of Nobel’s original Will was the ‘Nobel Prize for Economics’. This was funded by the Swedish Central Bank and was first awarded in 1969.

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