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On the Lighter Side => Famous Scientists, Doctors and Inventors => Topic started by: Andrew K Fletcher on 01/05/2005 17:43:36

Title: NOBEL, ALFRED BERNHARD (1833-1896)
Post by: Andrew K Fletcher on 01/05/2005 17:43:36
NOBEL, ALFRED BERNHARD (1833-1896) , Swedish chemist and engineer, was the third son of Emmanuel Nobel (1801-1872), and was born at Stockholm on the 21st of October 1833. At an early age he went with his family to St Petersburg, where his father started torpedo works. In 1859 these were left to the care of the second son, Ludvig Emmanuel (1831-1888), by whom they were greatly enlarged, and Alfred, returning to Sweden with his father, devoted himself to the study of ex-plosives, and especially to the manufacture and utilization of nitroglycerin. He found that when that body was incorporated with an absorbent, inert substance like kieselguhr it became safer and more convenient to manipulate, and this mixture he patented in 1867 as dynamite. He next combined nitro-glycerin with another high explosive, gun-cotton, and obtained a transparent, jelly-like substance, which was a still more powerful explosive than dynamite. Blasting gelatin, as it was called, was patented in 1876, and was followed by a host of similar combinations, modified by the addition of potassium nitrate, wood-pulp and various other substances. Some thirteen years later Nobel produced ballistite, one of the earliest of the nitroglycerin smokeless powders, containing in its latest forms about equal parts of gun-cotton and nitroglycerin. This powder was a precursor of cordite, and Nobel's claim that his patent covered the latter was the occasion of vigorously contested law-suits between him and the British Government in 1894 and 1895. Cordite also consists of nitroglycerin and gun-cotton, but the form of the latter which its inventors wished-to use was the most highly nitrated variety, which is not soluble in mixtures of ether and alcohol, whereas Nobel contemplated using a less nitrated form, which is soluble in such mixtures. The question was complicated by the fact that it is in practice impossible to prepare either of these two forms without ad-mixture of the other; but eventually the courts decided against Nobel. From the manufacture of dynamite and other explosives, and from the exploitation of the Baku oil-fields, in the development of which he and his brothers, Ludvig and Robert Hjalmar (1829-1896), took a leading part, he amassed an immense fortune; and at his death, which occurred on the loth of December 1896 at San Remo, he left the bulk of it in trust for the establishment of five prizes, each worth several thousand pounds, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality.
The first three of these prizes are for eminence in physical science, in chemistry and in medical science or physiology; the fourth is for the most remarkable literary work.

And not forgetting The Nobel Prize for Peace

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
K.I.S. "Keep it simple!"
Title: Re: NOBEL, ALFRED BERNHARD (1833-1896)
Post by: Andrew K Fletcher on 01/05/2005 18:28:08
Norwegian Culture - Dynamite and controversy in Oslo: The Nobel Peace Prize

Author: Valerie Borey  
Published on: May 11, 2001
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In 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat proudly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony held in Oslo, Norway. The award acknowledged their not inconsiderable efforts dedicated to achieving peace in the Middle East and directed international attention to future negotiations toward this objective. With the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, such efforts appeared in danger of being undermined.
At a memorial service held in Oslo in November 1995, US President Bill Clinton vowed to sustain the forceful efforts that Rabin had brought with him in this quest for peace, saying that Rabin had "risked his life to defend his country - today he gave his life to bring it a lasting peace." Clinton again honored this statement at a summit held in Oslo, meeting with Arafat and Rabin's successor, Ehud Barak, in order to renew the struggle for peace in the Middle East.

Their choice of Oslo as the site for these negotiations was an interesting one, given the long history of friction between Israel and Palestine. It was here that Rabin, Peres, and Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, and where the secret negotiations leading up to the Oslo II agreement between Israel and the PLO were held. Oslo has been acknowledged a city of peace since chosen by Alfred Nobel to house the Peace Prize nominee selection and awards, yet, like the situations it seeks to mediate, even this practice finds its origins in conflict.

Alfred Nobel died on December 10, 1896, leaving a substantial fortune which he intended to be used for the creation of the Nobel Prize Foundation. This fortune was based on the invention of dynamite, an explosive substance which revolutionized construction and mining techniques, and found its application in armaments as well. Some say that it was a matter of conscience that Nobel decided to leave his wealth for the Foundation, and that guilt over the repercussions of his invention had led him to emphasize the positive inventive aspects of human nature in the search for the common good. Yet others say that the Foundation was an idea inspired by an episode of unrequited love for Austrian countess Bertha Kinsky von Suttner, who later, in fact, won the Peace Prize with her novel Down with Arms. Whether or not it was one explanation or the other is irrelevant, in any case. It is sufficient to say that such factors had set the precedent for future negotiations involving highly emotional conflicts of power, violence, industry, and strategic alliance (be it in marriage or international politics).

Yet these were not the only conflicts surrounding Nobel's legacy. Nobel himself had neglected to reconcile his dreams with various heirs and international boundaries. His death, in 1896, sparked a nasty international battle over custody of this considerable fortune, which at the time amounted to about 9 million dollars. Complicating matters was the fact that the location of Nobel's permanent residence was difficult to ascertain. Both Sweden and France felt they had claims to inheritance taxes on his wealth. At the same time, surviving relatives - mainly nephews and nieces - felt that they too had some entitlement to his funds.

Ragnar Sohlman, Nobel's research assistant, had been appointed, along with Swedish attorney Rudolf Lilljequist, as executors of the will, however, and it was with the power of executor that he acted to ensure its proper dispersal in Sweden. Hiring a horse-drawn cab in Paris, Sohlman rushed from bank to bank with a revolver for protection at his side, filling crates with Nobel's various assets. These he disguised as plain luggage at the Gare du Nord station, where he sent them on through to Stockholm.

The issue did not resolve itself immediately in Stockholm, however, and even after the monetary issues had been settled, there was still a reluctance on the part of the institution selected by Nobel as a vehicle for this enterprise to accept responsibility for this duty. Nobel had asked that the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm be responsible for awarding accomplishments in medicine/physiology, the Royal Academy of Science for those in chemistry and physics, and the Swedish Academy for those in literature. While Norway was, at the time, held unwillingly in a political union with Sweden, Nobel felt it appropriate that the Norwegian parliament be responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. All institutions did, in the end, accept responsibility for this honor. The resolution of this initial conflict did not end the series of disputes associated with Nobel's legacy however. Despite Nobel's desire that the Prizes cross national boundaries, this was not always the case. Many countries have refused to participate in the ceremony, the most famous example being that of Nazi Germany. In 1937 Hitler opposed by decree German participation in the process, after a Nobel prize had been awarded to political enemy, pacifist Carl von Ossietzky. Nor has this conflict been limited to political rivalries. 1923, for instance, marked a nasty and prolonged hostility amongst the inventors of insulin for the treatment of diabetes. While it was a matter to be discussed, feelings about the bestowal of the1995 Peace Prize upon Rabin, Peres, and Arafat were mixed. Even when Rabin was assassinated, reactions ranged from tragic to jubilant. President Clinton named Rabin a "martyr for his nations peace" while the Iranian official state news agency suggested that Rabin had been "paid in his own coin." It was this friction, perhaps, that Nobel had anticipated when he founded his legacy with dynamite.

Resources Nov. 5, 1997 Dec. 31, 1996 Nov. 5. 1997

"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
K.I.S. "Keep it simple!"