Sunday, December 10, 2006

An Explosive Anniversary

On this date 110 years ago, Swedish Chemist Alfred Nobel died of a stroke. The death of the inventor of dynamite had been prematurely announced eight years earlier when a French newspaper published an obituary titled "Le marchand de la mort est mort." The unfavorable report on his life—it's thesis was that Nobel made millions on a device that created mass murder—prompted Nobel to do something about his legacy. So he altered his will to endow a series of annual prizes in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, and peace. The Nobel Prizes were first awarded 105 years ago. The first laureates were, respectively, Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, who documented the thermodynamics of chemical solutions; Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who discovered x-rays; Emil Adolf von Behring, who discovered substances that could fight diptheria and tuberculosis; French poet-essayist Sully Prudhomme; and jointly Henry Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross, and Frédéric Passy, who established organizations for peace and international arbitration.

Despite the notable works involved in inventing dynamite and founding the prizes, Nobel is best remembered today for his hilarious and heartwarming role as J.J. Evans in the television program Good Times, 1974–79.

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Image credits: "J.J. - Dyn-o-mite," tshizzleshirts, courtesy eBay, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.


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