Essays Archives


Although considered a "merchant of death,"
Alfred Nobel was quiet and peaceloving,
interested in the arts and science

From time immemorial, fame and riches have been the prime objectives of mankind at large. For many, these two aspirations have become the touchstone of an accomplished and a happy life. But after reaching the summit they have different feelings, seekers after fine do not give up trying. They only became prudent as they go along, they try to revert back mentally but nothing can be done as they have been cast in a loud. After the mould has been cast. In spite of such cases in history the The cords of ambition attained and kept, but soon they snap with a torment that demolishes the golden edifice built through years and years of sweat and toil.

Let us consider the life of the 'dynamite' man - Alfred Nobel. We associate his name with two important things. One is an event and the other is an invention. The event hits the headlines every year - i.e. the Nobel Prize giving ceremony. And his invention was dynamite.
Nobel though affluent had found very little happiness during his life. In 1888 a bizarre incident rocked the very nerves of Nobel. He was 55, breathing quite healthily and sober mentally. It was in the morning papers that he read his own obituary. In fact, his brother Ludwig had died but the press had mistakenly wrote his obituary. The papers had branded him as 'a merchant of death,' because his fortune had been amassed through the making of arms and weapons. Nobel felt, "Is this how posterity is going to remember me?" It left an indelible mark upon his conscience. He resolved to change his 'dead image' while he was still alive. Unknown to many, Nobel had given millions of dollars to those in despair and the poor. He became refined man, a connoisseur of art, culture and a man very much in love with poetry.

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. The birth of Nobel gave no consolation to his already bankrupt father, Immanuel Nobel. His father, had scant education, yet he was a gifted genius, a self-taught engineer, architect, and an inventor. Alfred's youthful days were not at all pleasant due to his failing health and dreamy nature he kept himself aloof from all ties of love and friendship. For Alfred, understanding, love, friends, a home, a wife and children spelled happiness. He never attained any of them. When he was middle-aged his brother asked him to write a short autobiography. He wrote the following:

Alfred Nobel: His miserable existence should have been terminated at birth by a humane doctor as he drew his first howling breath.
Principal Virtues: Keeping his nails clean and never being a burden to anyone.
Principal faults: He has no family, is bad tempered and has poor digestion.
One and only wish: Not to be buried alive.
Important event in his life: None

Alfred Nobel had attended school for only a year. His education continued under the guidance of a private tutor. He had acquired no degree or diploma but his ambitious nature and natural acumen got him wealth and fame.

For many years his elder brother had tried to find something more explosive than gun-powder. In 1855 Alfred and his father began to experiment with nitroglycerine. For fifteen long years both father and son pursued their project. In 1870 they invented a new power packed explosive-dynamite. Alfred Nobel truly believed that his invention would not be a weapon for further destruction but would lead to the signing of peace treaties. Writing to an eminent contemporary, an Austrian pacifist he said, "My factories may put an end to war sooner than your (peace) congresses."

Nobel was a mystery tycoon like Howard Hughes. A hermit whom very few people knew and saw. He often felt a need to be alone, "I want to live among the trees and bushes, silent friends who respect the state of my nerves, and I escape when I can from both large cities and deserts." He abhorred publicity. Inquiries about his life were often made, but he replied with a flat "No." The only portrait of him that exists was made after his death. Though Nobel was a delightful man, witty, fluent in four languages, he lived a solitary life and died a lonely death in 1896. His immense fortune amounted to 9 million dollars. In his will he desired that the money be spent in awarding prizes, to be distributed annually in five domains, namely; physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The subjects of his will reflect that Nobel was a man of peace. Now economics has been added to the list.

The presentation of prizes takes place at solemn ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo (Denmark where the peace prize is awarded) on December 10th, the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel. The prize is a handsome sum of 40,000 dollars, a gold medal and a diploma. But why is the prize awarded on his death anniversary, quite an inauspicious occasion you may think? It is probably because Alfred Nobel rather than be remembered as the "Merchant of Death," wanted to be remembered as a "Merchant of Peace and Generosity."

© 1999-2024 Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha), Swaminarayan Aksharpith | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Feedback |   RSS