Alfred Nobel’s will and testament established the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Foundation has now commissioned a new English translation of the will in order to make Alfred Nobel’s original thinking even more accessible.
Lars Heikensten, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation, believes that Nobel’s intentions and values are more relevant than ever.
What is the story behind Alfred Nobel’s will?
“When Alfred Nobel passed away in 1896, his last will and testament sparked the creation of the Nobel Prize. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish industrialist and inventor who believed in progress, in science and humanism. He wanted to reward such progress and outlined his intentions in this fascinating document. The idea was that these Nobel Laureates should be awarded with no consideration of nationality, and that they would function as role models and inspire more people to do good.
The first Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace were awarded in 1901.”
What does the will mean for the Nobel Foundation?
“It means a great deal to us – it sets the guidelines for how we run our operations. The Nobel Foundation has overall responsibility for fulfilling the intentions in Nobel’s will.
Why have you made a new translation of the will?
“We want this to be a living document and for Alfred Nobel’s words to be read by many individuals. To ensure this, you also need to update the language in order to make it accessible to a contemporary audience.”
What has changed in this translation?
“One aspect that might attract interest is the central formulation that the prizes should be awarded to those that have conferred “the greatest benefit to humankind”. The earlier version of the English translation said “mankind” but this was now a natural thing to update.”
How relevant is his testament today?
“The way of thinking that Alfred Nobel outlines in his will is more relevant than ever. We now live in a time where fact-based reasoning and free speech are being challenged in many parts of the world. We need to stand up for those values; we as the Nobel Foundation have a responsibility to do that.”
Read Alfred Nobel’s will