Alfred Nobel’s legacy of awarding people who have contributed significant benefit to humankind has, over the past century, shined the light on many notable scientists and world leaders who have demonstrated human spirit at its highest level. These prizewinners have earned the distinction of having “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” Visitors to the Nobel Prize Museum’s traveling exhibit can view these contributors in a new display aptly called “The Greatest Benefit to Humankind.”
About the exhibit
The exhibit is an outreach event by the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm and showcases the inventions, discoveries, and contributions that Nobel laureates have given the world. It is built around four themes:
- Saving Lives
- Feeding Humanity
- Protecting the Planet
- Connecting the World
It also includes more than 70 images and related text.
Visitors get to learn about how Alexander Fleming discovered a mold that inhibited the growth of bacteria — where would we be without penicillin? Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work with blue light-emitting diodes that led to energy-saving LED light sources that can operate in locations without a functioning grid.
Visitors can also interact with the exhibit by answering questions such as “What do you want to change?” and “How can you help build a better world?”
Alfred Nobel and his ironic legacy
Although today, the Nobel Prize honors the human spirit at its highest potential, it was born out of something quite the opposite. Before the prize, Alfred Nobel’s place in history was cemented through his invention of a substance that would be used as one of the world’s most destructive weapons — dynamite. It’s ironic that the inventor of one of the world’s greatest weapons against humanity would create an award to honor those who work for the good of humanity. But if it weren’t for an odd historical quirk, the Nobel Prize might never have come to be.
In 1888, Ludwig Nobel died. Through a case of mistaken identity, an obituary ran in the newspapers saying that Alfred, Ludwig’s younger brother and inventor of dynamite, had died. The paper ran a searing epitaph called the “Tradesman of Death,” which Alfred, a pacifist, read. He determined to change his life story. In his will, Alfred designated the major part of his financial legacy to establishing five prizes that rewarded top achievements in chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, physics, and peace. The first prizes were given out in 1901.
Although Alfred Nobel is still known as the father of dynamite, that legacy is overshadowed by his renown as a humanitarian that celebrates the determination and perseverance of those who poured themselves into the good of humanity. And in another twist of irony, his invention of one of the world’s greatest weapons has proven itself to also be a tool that has many beneficial uses for humankind.
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