Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2003 (11.3)

Inherited 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).

From Azerbaijan International (11.3) Autumn 2003.

© Azerbaijan International 2003.

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