Advocate of War or Promoter of Peace?
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SWEDEN
Each year, the Nobel prize is awarded to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions toward the good of humanity in a number of fields. When did this tradition start, and how is it related to the quest for world peace?
HIS name is associated with the betterment of mankind, yet he amassed great wealth selling weapons of war. Who was he? Alfred Bernhard Nobel, a Swedish industrialist and chemist. Nobel has been lauded for his humanitarian efforts, but he has also been called “a merchant of death.” Why? Because Nobel invented dynamite, and during his life he made a fortune manufacturing and selling lethal explosives.
After Nobel’s death in 1896, however, a startling discovery was made. His will stipulated that $9 million be set aside and that each year the interest accrued be awarded to individuals who made noteworthy achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.
At first, many people were perplexed. Why would an explosives entrepreneur be so eager to award benevolent and even peaceful attainments? Some assumed that Nobel was conscience-stricken over the destructive nature of his lifework. Others, however, came to feel that Nobel was working for peace all along. Indeed, it seems he believed that as weapons became more deadly, war would become less likely. “Perhaps my factories will put an end to war even sooner than your congresses,” he reportedly told one writer, adding: “On the day when two army camps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilized nations will probably recoil with horror and disband their troops.”
Did Nobel’s prediction prove true? What lessons were learned during the century that elapsed after Nobel’s death?
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“I should like to invent a substance or machine with such terrible power of mass destruction that war would thereby be made impossible forever”—ALFRED BERNHARD NOBEL
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Page 2: Missile: U.S. Navy photo; building rubble: UN PHOTO 158178/J. Isaac; page 3: Nobel: © Nobelstiftelsen