Swedish chemist, inventor, and philanthropist Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden on this day.
"Second to agriculture, humbug is the biggest industry of our age," he once said.
Nobel, who gathered over 350 patents, was the inventor of dynamite. His will provided that his $9 million estate be distributed yearly in five equal parts as prizes to those who had most helped the world in physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature, and world peace. Each winner was known as laureate, after the laurel crowns awarded to ancient athletes.
"If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied," Nobel admitted.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, on the fifth anniversary of Nobel's death (Nobel Day, December 10). Each year the prestigious prizes are awarded, adhering to Nobel's passionate request that the prizes be free from national bias. The amount of each prize was more than $40,000 in 1901; in 1991 it reached $1 million.
The legacy of Alfred Nobel continues. The five member Norwegian Nobel Committee, after reviewing 136 international nominees, named the medical relief agency group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), winners of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize.
Started in 1971 by Bernard Kouchner with a group of concerned French doctors, Doctors Without Borders currently includes over 2,000 volunteers in 80 countries who bravely accept they may be exposed to great personal risk without recourse and remain in hotspots others have chosen to flee.
Winner of the 2004 Peace Award, Wangari Maathai of Kenya, planted 30 million trees in Africa. "In managing our resources...we plant the seeds of peace," she said.
Justice... and peace... begin with imagination.