Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden on 21 October 1833. When he was eight, the family moved to Russia, where his father opened a mechanical engineering workshop. His interest in science, especially chemistry, appeared at an early age; in due course he also acquired extensive literary and philosophical knowledge, not least thanks to the ease with which he mastered foreign languages. He did most of his studying on his own, never taking any college or university examination.
He returned to Sweden in 1863 and began work as a chemist at his father´s workshop at Heleneborg in Stockholm. Applying the Italian Sobrero´s methods, he succeeded in further developing the explosive nitroglycerine, which he began manufacturing in Sweden in 1864. Plants subsequently opened in Germany and Norway, and then in other European countries and America. In 1867, Nobel obtained a patent on a special type of nitroglycerine, which he called dynamite. The invention quickly proved its usefulness in building and construction in many countries.
Production went hand-in-hand with research, energetically carried out at laboratories Nobel established in Stockholm and Hamburg and later also in Paris, at Bofors, and in San Remo. The original form of dynamite was gradually replaced by gelatin dynamite, which was safer to handle. In that development, too, Nobel played a major part.
Alfred Nobel wound up with a total of 355 patents, some more imaginative than useful, others both extremely practicable and valuable. He went on experimenting in pursuit of inventions in many fields, notably with synthetic materials. Income from the many enterprises all over the world in which he had interests made him one of the wealthiest men in Europe.
Nobel took a keen interest in social questions, and is known to have held radical views on many contemporary problems. His scientific and industrial activities took him to most European and American countries. He lived in Paris for a number of years, but planned to return to Sweden and settle down for good at Karlskoga, where he owned property. On 10 December, 1896, before the plans could be realised, he died at his home in San Remo in Italy.
Alfred Nobel was a lonely man and was often in poor health. He was very modest, often appearing shy to other people. Above all, he was engrossed in scientific ideas and in the practical management of his many European enterprises, and devoted himself night and day to his studies and work. His dream was to be of service to mankind.
In January 1897 it was learned that he had left the bulk of his considerable estate to a fund, the interest on which was to be awarded annually to the persons whose work had been of the greatest benefit to mankind. The statutes of the foundation which administered the fund – the Nobel Foundation – were adopted on 29 June 1900.
THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on the day of Alfred Nobel’s death, the 10th of December, a time-honored tradition since 1901. The formal ceremony in Oslo City Hall gathers representatives of the Norwegian royal family, government and parliament representatives, corps diplomatique and other representatives from Norwegian civil society, in total close to 1000 guests. The Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held at the Grand Hotel in the center of Oslo, where the Laureate is often greeted by a torchlight procession in his or her honor.
During the Nobel days in December a number of events mark the occasion. On December 9, the Laureate gives a press conference at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, where he or she also meets the members of the Nobel Committee and Institute staff. In the evening, the Laureate is the Nobel Committee’s guest at the so-called “little dinner” at the Grand Hotel. Shortly after the ceremony in City Hall, a internationally telecast interview is broadcast live from the same venue. As of 2016 a new event is intoduced in the University Aula, the previous venue for the ceremony. The Nobel Peace Prize Forum will feature top level speakers on world affairs. In the evening of 11 December, the Nobel days are wrapped up with the Nobel Peace Prize Concert at Telenor Arena, an internationally televised and electronically broadcast popular music celebration.
The ways and means to achieve peace are as diverse as the individuals and organizations rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, shared the first prize in 1901 with Frèdèric Passy, leading international pacifist of the time. Aside from humanitarian work and peace movements, the Prize has been awarded to a wide field of work including advocacy of human rights, mediation of international conflicts and arms control and disarmament.
THE NORWEGIAN NOBEL INSTITUTE
The Norwegian Nobel Institute was established in 1904, and moved into its present building in central Oslo, close to the royal palace, in 1905. The building, which was built in 1867, is a classic mansion house.
It was bought in 1903 from consul Christian Christophersen, a prominent figure in the booming business life of Kristiania (the name of the Norwegian capital until 1924) in the 1890s. A private house consisting of two separate apartments, it had to be totally renovated inside before the Institute could start using it.
By Norwegian standards in 1905, the Nobel Institute was both fashionable and expensive; at that time some people criticized the Nobel Foundation for spending too much money on a building. However, the same criticism could hardly be maintained 50, 60, or even 70 years later. Little was done to keep up appearances before 1984, when the Nobel Foundation initiated a second renovation of the whole building.
The principal duty of the Nobel Institute is to assist the Nobel Committee in the task of selecting the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and to organize the annual Nobel events in Oslo. In order to serve as a center of knowledge related to peace and international affairs in general, the Institute has built up what is today a 181,000-volume library. The literature which is available at the Nobel Institute Library is chiefly devoted to international relations.
The library is open to the public and has a nice reading room. Today, the Nobel Institute also has its own research department which organizes research projects related to issues of war and peace. The department is based on a fellowship program for visiting scholars from all over the world. The Nobel Institute arranges meetings, seminars and lectures in addition to holding so-called Nobel Symposia, exchanges of views and information to which it invites distinguished specialists from many countries.
When the doors of the Nobel Institute’s Grand Hall are pushed open and the chairman of the Nobel Committee enters the room, the attending press – and countless followers on TV and social media – hold their breath. In just a few seconds, this year’s recipient of the world’s most prestigious award will be announced.
There is no strict rule governing when the Norwegian Nobel Committee shall announce the name of the year’s Peace Prize Laureate. However, the established custom is to make the announcement at 11 a.m. on Friday of the first full week of October. According to the Nobel Foundation statutes the recipient of the Peace Prize must be announced no later than 15 November.
Seated on the podium are the Laureate, the Nobel Committee and its secretary. Maintaining a tradition that goes back to 1905, the ceremony is attended by members of the Royal Family. The rows of seats behind the Royal Family are occupied by representatives of the Government, the Storting, the Corps Diplomatique and other specially invited guests.
It has become tradition for the award ceremony to take place in a setting of speeches and artistic performances. In the first speech, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee presents the Laureate and accounts for the Committee’s choice. The chairman then calls upon the Laureate to come forward and be presented with the Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal. The presentation of the award is followed by the Laureate’s speech, the so-called Nobel lecture. This gives the Laureate the opportunity to deliver a full and personal statement of his or her message of peace.
The award ceremony has not always taken place in the Oslo City Hall. In the earliest years, from 1901 to 1904, the award was presented in the Storting. From 1905 up to and including 1946 (there were no awards during the world wars), the presentation took place at the Nobel Institute. From 1947 to 1989, the ceremony was held in the Aula of the University of Oslo. When that venue gradually became too small, the ceremony was moved to the City Hall. It seats approximately 1 000 guests in addition to the media.
The Nobel Peace Center will open its doors inside the historical Vestbanen building that once housed the main station for Norway´s west-bound railway, the Nobel Peace Center is taking shape.
The Center will present all the laureates, arrange exhibitions, and tell the story of Alfred Nobel and all the Nobel prizes. The Nobel Peace Center will combine dynamic communication and artistic interpretations.
“Many seem to believe that war generates peace, but we think there are other paths. In times such as ours it is important to convey the importance of trying genuine communication if we are to work towards peace. This is what many of the Peace Prize laureates have shown and are showing us”.