Though quite wealthy, Ludvig’s life wasn’t particularly noteworthy, and on April 12, 1888, he died after a long bout with heart disease. But when his more famous brother Alfred read the obituary, he was struck to his core…for two reasons.
First, his name was listed as the deceased, and second, it didn’t read too kindly.
Alfred and Ludvig were two of eight children born to Swedish inventor and engineer Immanuel Nobel. Though their family was impoverished, the boys took after their father and spent many of their days cooped up in makeshift laboratories working on experiments and scientific advancements. Ludvig would go on to become an oil baron, but Alfred was destined to be an inventor.
Alfred had a knack for chemistry, and the application of his talents won him several patents. He focused his efforts in the field of armaments, creating war-changing tools such as detonators, blasting caps, smokeless powder, and eventually, dynamite. Almost every military power in almost every military confrontation in the latter half of the 19th Century took advantage of his inventions.
But toward the close of the 19th Century, Ludvig grew ill, and went to France to seek medical attention. Alfred happened to be working in France during the same time, and when his older brother died, Alfred was deeply grieved.
But not as grieved as he would be when he picked up the paper to read the morning obituary.
The editors mistakenly thought that it was Alfred, not Ludvig, who has passed away. Aware of Alfred’s work, the writers mentioned the weaponry and armaments for which the inventor was known. They called Alfred “the merchant of death” and claimed that he “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
For understandable reasons, this shocked Alfred. On the spot, he began to wonder about his posthumous reputation and ways to guard it. Unbeknownst to family members and friends, Alfred changed his will, earmarking almost all of his vast wealth to form an initiative that would reward inventors who aimed at giving mankind peace.
The Nobel Peace Prize was born.
Now, every year, humanity celebrates those who have given themselves to helping others through their life’s work…all because of a newspaper misprint.
What if you, like Nobel, got a glimpse of your legacy before you died? What if you knew what others truly thought of you prior to your death? What if you had the opportunity to totally change how people remember you?
You do have that opportunity. It’s called today.
Alfred Nobel by Kenne Fant. Arcade Publishing, 1993, Page 207.
Topics Illustrated Include:
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)