Alfred’s favorite school subject was science. He especially loved chemistry and, like most boys, was drawn to combinations of chemicals that resulted in explosions.
As an adult, Alfred continued his fascination with volatile chemicals. After studying chemistry for a few years, he invented a detonator. This was soon followed by the first blasting cap and a safe mixture of nitroglycerin that he called “dynamite.” He envisioned a world where his innovations were used to improve mining operations and for the development of transportation systems.
But many saw a darker side to Alfred’s inventions. He was dogged in the press following a series of accidents at his factories – one of them killing five employees including his younger brother. Dynamite developed a reputation as a force of destruction rather than good. Undeterred, Alfred pushed on with his production of explosive materials, going on to develop safer, easier to handle materials.
But another brother died in 1888. This time, it had nothing to do with Alfred’s explosives. However, a French newspaper published Alfred’s obituary by mistake. The review of his life’s work was scathing. Alfred was labeled the “Merchant of Death” and credited with “finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
Seeing his accomplishments depicted in these terms made Alfred think about the legacy he would eventually leave behind. Uncomfortable with the idea of going down in history as “The Merchant of Death,” he decided to take steps to ensure his name would be associated with progress rather than destruction.
So Alfred Nobel rewrote his will, dedicating the vast majority of his fortune to the establishment of a series of annual awards recognizing achievements that positively impact mankind. In 1901, the first prizes were awarded for significant advances in the areas of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. Today the Nobel Prize is universally regarded as the most prestigious recognition one can receive in these fields.
How will you be remembered?
What legacy will live on after your time on earth is finished?
What steps should you be taking now to preserve your legacy for future generations?