Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833 – 1896) and his famous prizes – Puebla

Normally I wait with a feeling of “anxiety” for the news of the Nobel Prize winners that is given annually in every October; however, this year was different. Very probably my feeling is a consequence of the pandemic, the uncertainty of what is going to happen in global terms, the unprecedented effort to resume activities that were previously part of everyday life such as walking to work and even the economic crisis with all its effects .

However, it is not too much to recognize on this day, which is the name day of its founder, with historical aspects that are interesting, surprising, amazing and even moving, as they revolve around the “prize” that sometimes even seems like a kind gift with petty orientations totally different from those originally proposed by its creator.

His brother Ludvig Immanuel Nobel (1831 – 1888), died on April 12 and by mistake, a French journalist confused him with Alfred, publishing an obituary that had the title “The merchant of death is dead”. Surely there were countless comments that linked him to the extraordinary invention of dynamite (his most famous creation) which, although it was used in mining and engineering, of course, due to its explosive power, contributed to the death of an indeterminate number of individuals in war.

Alfred Nobel (and not Nobel, as almost everyone erroneously pronounces him), was a genius, but with an extravagant character and, although it seems incredible, insecure, with depressive and obsessive tendencies; however, he was also an extremely idealistic and kind-hearted person who believed that with his invention, he would bring world peace, so according to his own words, he once expressed that… when man understood that dynamite, being able to eliminate entire armies, could end wars. Having read the wrong obituary, the only thing he wanted was to change in a definitive way the opinion that would be held of him in the future, writing a famous testament that I recovered from the internet and that expresses:

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The totality of what remains of my fortune will be disposed of as follows: the capital, invested in safe securities by my testamentaries, will constitute a fund whose interest will be distributed each year in the form of prizes among those who during the preceding year have made the greatest benefit to humanity.

Said interests will be divided into five equal parts, which will be distributed as follows:

A part to the person who has made the most important discovery or invention in the field of Physics.

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One part to the person who has made the most important discovery or improvement in Chemistry.

A part to the person who has made the most important discovery in the field of Physiology and Medicine.

A part to the person who has produced the most outstanding work of idealistic tendency within the field of Literature.

A part to the person who has worked more or better in favor of brotherhood among nations, the abolition or reduction of existing armies and the celebration and promotion of peace processes.

Prizes for Physics and Chemistry will be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; Physiology and Medicine will be awarded by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that of Literature, by the Stockholm Academy and that of the defenders of peace by a committee made up of five people chosen by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament).

It is my express wish that, when awarding these prizes, the nationality of the candidates is not taken into consideration, but that the most deserving are the ones who receive the prize, whether they are Scandinavian or not.

The Nobel Prize in Economics is awarded annually by the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences and unlike the other five that bear his name, it was not created by Alfred Nobel, but began to be awarded in 1969, on the initiative and with resources from the Bank of Sweden, with the denomination of Prize for Economic Sciences of the Bank of Sweden, under the administration of the Nobel Foundation.

There are questions that I ask myself, for example, what types of criteria can be chosen by those who select the Nobel Prize for Literature when the authors’ translations can never match the original language; or the “peace” prizes, when there are currently around 59 active wars in the world, including, of course, the current and very Mexican “war on drugs.”

The idea of ​​Alfred Bernhard Nobel was truly brilliant and regardless of the hidden aspects that frame them, at present, it is not too much to review them. At the end of the day, they are part of what we now make up as this motley group of living beings that we call ourselves humanity and that, despite our absurd acts of self-annihilation, well, we continue, better or worse, surviving, regardless of the dynamite that Alfred Nobel invented.

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Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833 – 1896) and his famous prizes – Puebla