An obituary can give meaning, direction to the living

An obituary can give meaning, direction to the living

SINGAPORE - An obituary can change the course of history. This was certainly true in the case of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of the dynamite. When his brother, Ludvig, died in 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly ran his obituary instead of Ludvig's.

Alfred was shocked to find himself described as the "merchant of death" for his invention. His own vision was that dynamite would help bring about the end of war. "When two armies of equal strength can annihilate each other in an instant," he once wrote, "then all civilised nations will retreat and disband their troops."

This unflattering public perspective is widely believed to be the motivation behind Alfred's philanthropy in establishing the Nobel Prizes. How well he succeeded can be judged from his current fame as an idealist rewarding those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind".

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