Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today during his speech at the Nobel Prize banquet, Richard Thaler, an American and the 2017 laureate in economics, toasted the benefactor of these distinguished international awards, Alfred Nobel.  Having been immersed with the lives and careers of Nobel Prize winners whom President Kennedy honored at the White House in 1962, I came to learn more about the Swedish philanthropist.

Alfred Nobel was a chemist who found a safe way to use nitroglycerine and create an explosive that achieved widespread use in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition to inventing dynamite, he created other explosives such as gelignite and ballistite, and he became rich.

A brilliant and well-read man, Nobel was also aloof. “I am a misanthrope,” he explained, “and yet, utterly benevolent, have more than one screw loose yet a super-idealist who digests philosophy more efficiently than food.” He was a lifelong bachelor who wrote his will in 1895—one year before his death—and the bulk of the money in the brief document was relegated to establish financial “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”

The Nobel Prizes commenced in 1901. In his will Nobel stipulated that five prizes would be awarded annually: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace; the economics prize came later.  He also identified how the prizes would be awarded. Because Norway and Sweden were united under one king—it was a union that was established in 1814—each state had a role in the administration of the prizes.

The awards are presented in December in both capitals: the Peace Prize in Oslo and the other prizes in Stockholm.  

Photo is of the Nobel Prize winners at the White House, April 29, 1962.  Source: Abbie Rowe, White House Photographs, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.