Autumn 2003 (11.3)
Wealth - Don't Give it to Your Children
"I regard large
inherited wealth as a misfortune, which merely serves to dull
men's faculties. A man who possesses great wealth should, therefore,
allow only a small portion to descend to his relatives. Even
if he has children, I consider it a mistake to hand over to them
considerable sums of money beyond what is necessary for their
education. To do so merely encourages laziness and impedes the
healthy development of the individual's capacity to make an independent
position for himself."
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) on his decision to leave his
immense wealth for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes rather
than to his children. Only a small portion of his wealth was
left to relatives, the greatest amount of his legacy valued at
31 million Swedish crowns (equivalent of $220 million today)
was designated for five Nobel Prizes.
To create the prizes, Alfred withdrew his investment from the
Nobel Brothers' Petroleum Company in Baku run by his brothers
Ludvig (1831-1888) and Robert (1829-1890) and combined it with
the funds made from his invention of dynamite. Swedish historian
E. Bargengren, who had access to the Nobel's family archives,
insists that it was the decision to allow withdrawal of Alfred's
money from Baku that was "the decisive factor that enabled
the Nobel Prizes to be established."
The Nobel prizes, awarded since 1901, are bestowed in six categories:
physics, physiology, chemistry, literature, economics and peace.
Quote from Ragnar Sohlman and Henrik Schuck, "Nobel: Dynamite
and Peace" (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929)
as described in J. Michael Bishop's book, "How to Win the
Nobel Prize" (Harvard University Press, 2003).
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