Swedish businessman and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel, in his will signed in 1895, set up a number of prizes awarded each year that have become some of the most prestigious in the world. The following are some facts about the man and the prizes:
-- Nobel said in his will the prizes should be given to people "who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind".
-- He ordered that most of his estate of 31 million Swedish crowns at the time should be converted into a fund and invested in safe securities.
-- The first prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after Nobel's death in San Remo, Italy.
-- His will gave five categories for prizes: physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature and peace. A sixth prize, the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968.
-- The winners get 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.45 million), either individually or shared, though no more than three people are allowed to share.
-- As well as being an inventor and businessman, Nobel dabbled in writing plays and poetry. The following are the opening lines of his "Night Thoughts":
"The solemn silence of the midnight hour
Unchains the fettered spirit, and the power
Of Reasoning takes a visionary flight
Beyond the limits of detective sight,
Which may deceive us, yet attracts the soul
Even with its wild and daring uncontrol."
-- Nobel never married and was continually on the road. French writer Victor Hugo called him "Europe's richest vagabond".
-- He once described himself in this way: "Pathetic half life, should have been suffocated by a humane doctor as he sobbingly made his entry into life ... His only request: not to be buried alive."