Noble. Oh to be a noble soul. It could mean a couple of things actually. You could be from a hereditary line with high social, or political status. You know, your Mom and Dad, Queen and King. Nobility.
Or, it could mean that you show very fine personal qualities. That you have a set of high moral principles. High Ideals. It would indicate that you… yes, you…. Are of excellent or superior quality.
Noble Nancy. Noble Nick.
But there is another kind of Noble. You flip the “e” with the “l” and you have the Prize. Nobel.
And on this date, this December 10th, in the year 1901, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. They were given in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.
But let’s back up a few years. Say, five years prior to that. A guy named Alfred Nobel died. His friends called him Little Al because he was only 5’5” tall on a good day. He said 5’7”, but that only happened when he wore his good black boots with the riser heel. So yeah. Little Pal Al. Shorty Nobel.
Anyway. He was a Swedish inventor. He came up with the how-to for dynamite and other explosives. All his work made him filthy rich, by the way. In fact, he was worth $472 million dollars.
So, as I mentioned, he died on December 10, 1896, and he left that will. In it, he directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund. AND, the interest of that fund would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” The Nobel Prize.
Nobody knows for sure why Shorty Nobel did this. This creation of the prizes for awesomeness. But, a lot of people believe that he did so out of guilt. Moral regret. A bunch of the things he invented were being used lethally (and increasingly) in war.
So. He wanted to give back to the people who were doing good things on the planet.
Here is another glitchy thing about his history. In 1863, he invented a way to control the detonation of nitroglycerin. The old Nitro. Everyone thought it was way too dangerous to use, but Albert Nobel found a way. Then, he invented the blasting cap. Before all of this, war guys were just lighting gunpowder.
Nitroglycerin remained very, very dangerous, though. And then in 1864, the unthinkable happened. Nobel’s nitroglycerin factory blew up, killing his younger brother and several other people.
That whole deal made him search for a “safer” explosive. Finally, he figured out that you could mix together nitroglycerin and a porous substance called kieselguhr. It made big booms and Nobel christened his invention “dynamite,” for the Greek word dynamis, meaning “power.”
And that was the big ticket. Risky business, nonetheless.
Today, the Nobel Prizes are the Big Kabbbooom. They are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world in their various fields.
Some of the winners have included a lot of people you know. Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela.
They get a pretty big back of cash and a medal, depending on the year. In 2009, it was $1.4 million. In 2016, $1.0 million. And always, a Gold Medal.
Which they deserve.
And, I was joking about the Little Al thing. Albeit, he was pretty short. No matter what his height, I bet he was a Noble Nobel.
“Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance sake, but for the sake of having done right?”