Prizes for greatest benefit on mankind

Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Alfred Nobel (21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He was the inventor of dynamite. He used his fortune posthumously to institute the Nobel Prizes. Nobel also owned Bofors, a major manufacturer of cannon and other war armaments.

In 1888, the death of his brother Ludvig caused several newspapers to publish obituaries of Alfred in error. A French newspaper erroneously published Alfred's obituary and it condemned him for his invention of dynamite. The obituary stated "The merchant of death is dead” and went on to say, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will and set aside the bulk of his assets to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. Nobel's last will specified that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind" in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. As of 31 December 2007, the assets controlled by the Nobel Foundation amounted to US$ 560 million.

The unmarried Alfred Nobel

Bertha von Suttner

Nobel remained a solitary character, given to periods of depression. Though Nobel remained unmarried, his biographers note that he had at least three loves. Nobel's first love was in Russia with a girl named Alexandra, who rejected his proposal. In 1876 Bertha Kinsky became Alfred Nobel's secretary. But, she left him to marry her previous lover. Though her personal contact with Alfred Nobel had been brief, she corresponded with him until his death in 1896, and it is believed that she was a major influence in his decision to include a peace prize among those prizes provided in his will. Bertha was awarded the 1905 Nobel Peace prize, 'for her sincere peace activities'. She was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel was the owner of Bofors Weapon Company

Bofors' most famous owner was Alfred Nobel, who owned the Weapon manufacturing Company from 1894 until his death in December 1896. Nobel played the key role in reshaping the former iron and steel producer to a modern cannon manufacturer.

In 1986, a $285 million contract between the Government of India and Swedish arms company Bofors was signed for supply of Bofors field guns. In 1987, Swedish Radio alleged that Bofors paid illegal commissions to top Indian politicians and key defense officials to seal the deal. The scandal contributed to the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi in the elections three years later.