Legacy


Column: Doorway to Diversity,
by Darold Ingram

This past week, I found myself learning about the individual whom my elementary school was named after. I went to Nobel Elementary in Gary, Indiana, but never really learned about the individual until now.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, and innovator of weapons. One of his most famous accomplishments was in the field of chemistry in 1867.

During the 19th century, nitroglycerin was an extremely volatile substance. It was the first explosive stronger than black power (gunpowder). Although it was important in the use construction and weapons, may people were discouraged to use it because it was simply unsafe to use.

Nobel began to find ways to make nitroglycerin much easier to use. He found a solution when he combined the oily nitroglycerin with substances that could absorb the dangerous nitroglycerin, such as a soft sedimentary rock that was crumbled into a fine white powder. This new combination made the handling of nitroglycerin much easier and safer to handle and caused a tremendous increase in the highly explosive material; from engineering to military use. In 1867 Nobel renamed his new invention dynamite. Within a short period of time, Nobel became tremendously wealthy due to his new “deadly” invention.

In 1888, Alfred’s brother died. The next day, a Swedish newspaper mistakenly posted HIS obituary. In the obituary it condemned him for his invention of dynamite and accused him of finding ways to kill people than ever before; stating that “The Merchant of Death is Dead!!”.

Nobel was very saddened by what he read in the newspaper. He began to wonder what type of legacy he would leave behind and how he would be remembered. With his health failing, he prepared a detailed will in 1895. In his will he set aside the bulk of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes and to have them awarded annually.

He established five Prizes with four of them being awarded to individuals who made significant contributions to society in the field of Chemistry, Physical Science, Medical Science, and in Literary work.

It is the fifth one that everyone is familiar with. Nobel wanted this prize to be given to the person or society that renders the “greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace”. We now know this award as simply the Nobel Peace Prize.

As I discovered this bit of information this past weekend, I was unaware that the individual that set up the Nobel Peace Prize was responsible for the creation of dynamite. It seems to contradict the very meaning of the term “peace”. But I think that Nobel realized something important in the grand scheme of things: how will be remembered once we are gone.

I know that as young professionals, no one thinks about death or our legacy as human beings, but to be honest, we should think about that every once and a while. How will we be remembered once we are gone? Who did we influence, mentor, or inspire while we were alive? Who loved us enough to tell others about our story and is willing to carry on our legacy?

Alfred Nobel understood the value and importance of a legacy. It’s the one thing we will leave behind once we are gone. He also understood that as long as we are alive, there’s always time to change and mold your legacy. It’s ironic that the man known for peace is the same man known for creating one of history’s most destructive weapons.

-Darold Ingram

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~ by daroldingram on April 27, 2011.

One Response to “Legacy”

  1. Really thoughtful post, Darold. It’s given me a lot to chew on 😉 Life is made up by people’s interpretation of facts…

    I once read an article stating that pick an adjective you want to be described as, and live your life as the epitome of the word. I want the first word people think of when they think of me to be “compassionate.” I want that to be my legacy. And I think I’m failing miserably…but there’s still (hopefully) time.

    Thanks for the insights today 🙂

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