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How Are the Nobel Prizes Funded?

When we hear Nobel Prize, we picture people who have made significant contributions to humanity. But did you know that Alfred Nobel left behind an enormous amount of money to fund the prizes? 

The cash award for winning a Nobel Prize is about $1 million. The awards are paid from the interest earned by Alfred Nobel’s estate, which is invested in “safe securities.”

Who Was Alfred Nobel?

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born on October 21, 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the third son of an inventor and engineer, Immanuel Nobel, and his wife, Andriette Ahlsell Nobel. When Nobel was young, his father’s business closed, urging him to try his business in Russia. Immanuel Nobel’s business took off in St. Petersburg and then soon supplied the Russian army. (Source: Nobel Prize)

At this time, the family relocated to Russia in 1842. The Nobel family was able to provide a first-class education to their children then. The tutors noted that Alfred Nobel was very much interested in learning. By 17, he was fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English, and German.

Nobel was noted to be fascinated with literature, physics, and chemistry. He was soon sent to Paris to work for then famous professor T.J. Pelouze. Nobel then met Ascanio Sobrero, the young Italian chemist who invented nitroglycerine.

Upon his return to Sweden, he worked with his father to further develop nitroglycerine to make it usable and sellable. His brothers, however, remained in Russia to salvage their family business but soon became successful in developing the oil industry in Southern Russia.

Nobel continued working on nitroglycerine until he invented dynamite, which was used in their family mining business. He patented his invention in 1867, and soon after, his product was in high demand in the construction industry.

Nobel’s success enabled him to set up 90 different factories all around Europe. It also helped him to continue inventing things like synthetic rubber and leather and artificial silk. Nobel holds 355 patents, including those for the blasting gelatin and the ballistite.

In 1888, Ludvig, Nobel’s brother, died in France. The French newspapers then confused Ludwig with Alfred, printing that Alfred had passed away. The heading of the obituary was Le marchand de la mort est mort; the merchant of death was dead. After reading the obituary, Nobel was extremely bothered by how people viewed him. He spent the remainder of his life working on the Nobel Foundation. (Source: Britannica)

The Nobel Prize

A year after Nobel passed, his last will was opened. His will stated that his fortune would be used to give prizes to people who have contributed significantly to humanity. It was indicated that people in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace are considered for the prize. (Source: Nobel Prize)

The Nobel Foundation was formed to execute Nobel’s final will. It took them almost four years to complete due to the disagreement of family members and authorities carrying out the terms of the will.

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, commemorating Nobel’s fifth death anniversary. Nobel’s estate funds the Prizes as his will stated that the bulk of his assets would be given to an endowment to invest in safe securities. The interest from these investments will then be used to award the annual winners of the Nobel Prizes. (Source: Investopedia)

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