On a Noble Inventor

Immanuel still holds several patents for his inventions despite the fact that he died about 150 years ago. The Swede took his rather large family and moved to St. Petersburg Russia in the late 1830s and found success there working on ideas that still comprise parts of various modern industries. For example, Immanuel created the first rotary lathe that made possible the creation of modern plywood.

In addition to his inventions, Immanuel also created companies that made explosives and various bombs and mines that caught the keen interest of then Czar Nicholas I of Russia. The Czar, engaged in a war with Britain in the Crimea, made Immanuel a wealthy man for a time. But Nicholas died in 1855, and the incoming Czar, Alexander II, ended the Crimean War and severely cut the nation’s military spending. Immanuel’s company went from boom to bust in a very short time. By 1862, the company was in receivership, and the family returned to Sweden after over two decades abroad.

It wasn’t the first time Immanuel had faced economic ruin. That circumstance faced them before when they had gone to Russia in the first place. Now, coming back to Sweden, it felt to Immanuel and his wife that they were right back where they had been, as if the past twenty plus years had been in vain. Add to their increasing despair the fact that one of Immanuel’s eight children, his son, Emil, had died in an explosion at the family factory. It seems that the company had been experimenting with nitroglycerin. Someone grew careless in handling the dangerous material, and Emil lost his life.

When Immanuel died a decade later, the rest of his family rightly mourned him. Here was a man who tried his best to do what he needed to do to take care of and provide for his wife and children. That’s the noble way he wished to be remembered–not as someone who made (and lost) a fortune in the arms business. That mentality of being keenly aware of what your legacy would be–how people would remember you after you’re gone–would be passed down to his children and his children’s children.

It certainly made a large impact on one of Immanuel’s son, a man named Alfred. Alfred would go on to create over 350 patents for inventions, including the creation of dynamite out of nitroglycerin, thus safely handling the very substance that took the life of his brother. And, like his father, Alfred did not want to be know for his inventions regarding warfare and destruction. He wanted his legacy to be a legacy of the celebration of the achievements of mankind, including the making of peace.

That’s why Alfred Nobel used his fortune to create the Nobel Prize.

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