Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Bob_Anton_Narrow_Road Imagine that you could see your life through the eyes of others. Imagine you could know how you will be remembered when you’re gone.  Would you want to know?  Well, just such a thing happened to an extremely wealthy businessman by the name of Alfred Bernhard Nobel. Alfred was a chemist and inventor. His primary field of expertise was explosives; high explosives. Up until 1847 black powder was the most powerful explosive known to man. But in 1847 a man by the name of Ascanio Sobrero invented a particularly volatile liquid compound called nitroglycerine. That’s where Alfred comes in. Although nitroglycerine was highly unstable, its value as an explosive was enormous. Alfred seized upon this opportunity by building a factory specifically designed to produce nitroglycerine. In 1863, Alfred invented a device called a blasting cap which could safely detonate nitroglycerine. Nonetheless, nitroglycerine remained very dangerous to handle and in 1864 Alfred’s younger brother Emil was killed in an explosion at the factory. This only increased Alfred’s ambition to develop a safer more stable form of nitroglycerine, which he did just three years later with the discovery of dynamite. This discovery lead to Alfred becoming a very wealthy man.

By the age of 55 he had amassed a great fortune, controlling numerous corporations, which produced and marketed dynamite throughout Europe and the world. Of course, dynamite has many uses some of which are less than peaceful. The sad reality is that Alfred had made a fortune off of the death and misery of others. Then in 1888 Alfred’s older brother, Ludvig, died and by a strange twist of fate several French newspapers confused Ludvig with his famous brother Alfred. One such paper published this headline: “Le marchand de la mort est mort” which means, “The merchant of death is dead.” And so Alfred was given the rare opportunity to see just how he would be remembered after death.

Apparently Alfred was not happy with this legacy, so he made provisions that once gone, he would be remembered always, not as a merchant of death, but as a humanitarian. Alfred used his enormous wealth to establish a trust, which governed by a board of directors, would each year following his death bestow prizes for excellence in five fields of service. The first of these prizes is for distinction in Alfred’s own chosen field, chemistry. The second and third prizes are for prominence in physical and medical science. The fourth prize is for literary excellence, and the fifth is awarded to the person or persons providing the greatest service to the cause of international harmony. You would best know this prize by its common name, The Nobel Peace Prize.  You see, Alfred Bernhard Nobel had the rare privilege of looking back at his life through the eyes of others. And being a thoughtful man, he seized the opportunity to right a wrong and rewrite his own legacy.

The question now stands for you and me. How will we be remembered? I’m not talking about the kind words some priest or rabbi might say out of obligation at grave, or even the superlatives found on the obituary page of the local paper. I’m saying, when it’s all said and done, what will they really have to say about us? When the masks are off and people speak from the heart in the privacy of their own homes, what will they say? What lives will we have touched? What lasting impressions will we have made? Will they even remember us five or ten years down the road, or will our memory fade into the past like a TV program once enjoyed, but long since forgotten.

Alfred Nobel had an opportunity to correct a wrong in his life. You and I have the same opportunity right now. This life is a one shot deal and how you’re remembered twenty years from now will speak far louder than any current platitudes.

You think about that…

God Bless you and See You on The Road.

Bob Anton Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or

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