On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his third and last will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris. When it was opened and read after his death, the will caused a lot of controversy both in Sweden and internationally, as Nobel had left much of his wealth for the establishment of a prize. His family opposed the establishment of the Nobel Prize, and the prize awarders he named refused to do what he had requested in his will. It was five years before the first Nobel Prize could be awarded in 1901.
The establishment of the Nobel Prize
In this excerpt of the will, Alfred Nobel dictates that his entire remaining estate should be used to endow “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”
“All of my remaining realisable assets are to be disbursed as follows: the capital, converted to safe securities by my executors, is to constitute a fund, the interest on which is to be distributed annually as prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. The interest is to be divided into five equal parts and distributed as follows: one part to the person who made the most important discovery or invention in the field of physics; one part to the person who made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction; and one part to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry are to be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical achievements by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be selected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that when awarding the prizes, no consideration be given to nationality, but that the prize be awarded to the worthiest person, whether or not they are Scandinavian.”
Text version of Alfred Nobel’s will
Ragnar Sohlman – Executor of the will