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Alfred Nobel

Nobel was a Swedish chemical engineer born in 1833 who developed dynamite - the first easy to use and relatively safe to handle explosive. This drastically reduced the cost of blasting rock, drilling tunnels, mining, building road and canals and many other forms of construction work. Nobel ended up with factories in over 20 countries and a good deal of money.

Nobel continued to invent and in his later life worked on various rockets and cannons at a factory in Bofors, Sweden. In 1891 Nobel said to the peace campaigner Bertha von Suttner:

Open quote:Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses: on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilised nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops.Close quote:

Nobel died in Italy in 1896 well before the horrors of WWI proved him completely wrong. In his will he set up the fund for  five Nobel Prizes to be awarded annually. In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature were first awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and the Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

It has never been absolutely clear as to whether Nobel intended the Peace prize to make up for the way his inventions had come to be used murderously in war. Einstein, in a speech on the problems of being a scientist and managing social responsibility for others made just after the atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan, likened their problems to that of Nobel.

Open quote:Alfred Nobel invented an explosive more powerful than any then known -- an exceedingly effective means of destruction. To atone for this 'accomplishment' and to relieve his conscience, he instituted his award for the promotion of peace.

Question: However, we don't know for sure that Nobel's Peace Prize resulted directly from his concerns over the use of his invention. What do you think?

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