Alfred Nobel was was an engineer, chemist and a prominent inventor born into a family of engineers on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. In the late 19th century, Nobel would purchase the Bofors steel and iron mills, he turned it into a massive armaments manufacturer. He made a fortune during his life, the majority of his wealth came from his 355 inventions. Nobel invented Ballistite, (a smokeless propellant made from two explosives of nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose) which would be used in many smokeless military explosives, most notably the British smokeless powder cordite. Its not near as powerful as his most explosive invention, dynamite.
During his 63 year life, Nobel would write many wills. The last one would be signed the year before he died, at the Swedish-Norwegian club in Paris, on November 27, 1895. Many were surprised when it stated, his fortune will be used for a series of prizes that go to the "greatest benefit on mankind" in chemistry, physics, literature, physiology or medicine, and peace. He would leave behind 94% of his assets, totalling 31 million SEK ($186 million US in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes. Lots of skepticism about the will, would cause it not to be approved until April 26, 1897. Rudolf Lilljequist and Ragnar Sohlman, the executors to the will, formed the Nobel Foundation.
Shortly after the guidelines were in place, the nominees would start to pour in. The first prize was awarded in 1901 to the founder of The International Red Cross Committee, Henry Dunant. Henry would go on to win it the most out of anyone, three times he was awarded the peace prize. Some of the most recognizable faces that have won over the years are; Albert Einstein for physics, for discovering the "photoelectric effect," Marie Curie & Co., she was the first person to win two, and one of only two people to win in two different fields, one for physics for the discovery of radioactivity, and one for chemistry for discovering the elements, radium and polonium. Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins for physiology or medicine, for their discovery of the shape of the DNA molecule, the double helix. Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, over 45 years she led 610 charity missions in 123 countries, helping the poor, sick and dying.
This top 10 list isn't about the ones who were among the winners, but who lots would argue should have won this prestigious prize.
10 John N. Bahcall (December 30, 1934 - August 17, 2005)
In 2002, Bahcall was left out for the Nobel prize for physics, for his research conducted on solar neutrinos. Instead, it was awarded to chemist Raymond Davis Jr., and Masatoshi Koshiba for observing the neutrinos that Bahcall had predicted with his solar model. This former astrophysicist laid the ground work for figuring out the solar neutrino conundrum, he also developed the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the development and leadership of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
9 Thich Nhat Hanh (October 11, 1926 - Present)
A teacher, author, poet, peace activist, and one of the most well known and respected Zen Buddhist monks. Born in the city of Quang Ngai in Central Vietnam. Currently lives in the Plum Village Monastery of the Dordogne region, located in the southern part of France. Hanh has published over 100 books, including more than 40 in English. In one book titled, Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, he would coin the phrase Engaged Buddism.
8 Oswald Avery (October 21, 1877 - February 20, 1955)
7 Lise Meitner (November 7, 1878 - October 27, 1968)
6 Cesar Chavez (March 31, 1927 - April 23, 1993)
5 Ralph A. Alpher (February 3, 1921 – August 12, 2007)
4 John Lennon (October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980)
3 Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962)
2 Pope John Paul II (May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005)
1 Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948)
Probably the most recognizable face in this top ten list, Gandhi, is the well deserved number one. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, and a few days before being murdered in 1948. Born in Porbandar, India, Gandhi studied law and would come to advocate for the rights of Indians, both at home and in South Africa, he was imprisoned in both places for his opposition of the way the government was running things. Gandhi became a leader of India's independence movement, organizing boycotts against British institutions in peaceful forms of civil disobedience. He once led a landmark 200 mile march to the sea to collect salt in symbolic defiance of the government monopoly. As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became a massive political and spiritual leader in his time. Satyagraha remains one of the most potent philosophies in freedom struggles throughout the world today.
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