An Obituary That Changed Perception
December 9, 2009 by Chip Wood
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read your own obituary? More than 100 years ago that actually happened to one of the richest men in the world. What he read changed forever how he would be remembered.
The man was Alfred B. Nobel. The source of his vast wealth was the invention of dynamite, which quickly became the most popular explosive in the world. Governments ordered it in huge quantities. Armies were able to kill and maim huge numbers of enemy combatants faster and easier than ever before.
By the late 1800s there were dynamite factories and munitions-makers the world over. Alfred Nobel was wealthy “beyond the dreams of avarice,” as the saying goes. Then fate intervened.
Alfred’s brother died. But when it was erroneously reported that it was Alfred who had left this vale of tears, he got to read the obituaries that the world’s press wrote about him.
Alfred was appalled to see that his legacy would be one of bloodshed and death, and he vowed to change it. By leaving the bulk of his vast fortune to fund something that would become known as the Nobel Prizes, he was able to do so.
Alfred Nobel died on Dec. 10, 1896. For more than a century, the Nobel Committee in Stockholm, Sweden, has honored their benefactor by awarding the Nobel Prizes on the date of his passing. Some of the recipients are actually worthy of the wealth and acclaim they receive.