The Man Who Didn’t Like His Obituary

 

Alfred Nobel

Can you imagine reading your own obituary in the newspaper? What would people say about you? Alfred Nobel got the chance to read his own death notice, and he didn’t like what he saw. 

Alfred Nobel was a very wealthy and successful man. He had become an expert in chemistry and invented three of the most commonly used explosives in the world—dynamite, gelignite (used in mining) and ballistite, which is still used as a rocket propellant today.

With the huge fortune he made from these inventions, Nobel bought an engineering company called Bofors and turned it into an arms manufacturer. He made another enormous fortune designing cannons and guns and selling them around the world.

Then, in 1888, Alfred’s brother died while visiting France. A French newspaper thought it was Alfred who had died and they published an obituary that began like this:

THE MERCHANT OF DEATH IS DEAD

Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday….

Alfred Nobel was shocked. Was this what people thought of him? Was this the legacy he would leave to the world? That’s when he decided to use his vast wealth to make a positive difference.

Nobel set up a foundation with $250 million dollars in funding. Every year the foundation would consult the leading experts in the world and hand out prizes to people who had made great contributions to humanity. There would be prizes for sciences, for literature, and for promoting peace.

Today the Nobel Prizes are probably the best-known and most prestigious awards in the world. They have been awarded to great scientists, authors and activists and helped draw attention to many outstanding works and worthy causes.

Nobel set up his foundation in 1895: just in time to influence his own obituary. He died only a year later.

The Nobel Prizes accomplished his wish; they created a very different legacy for him than a reputation as “The Merchant of Death.” He is not remembered as an explosives inventor or arms dealer, but as one of the greatest philanthropists of all time.

He is also a great example of how it is never too late to change your life and help make the world a better place.

_______________________________________

This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

A Peaceful Courageous Warrior

 

 

Wangari Maathai

Some people, by their nature, ignore the status quo and ignore the odds, and go where no one has gone before. They are peaceful but courageous warriors.

Wangari Maathai was the first woman to do a lot of things: she was the first woman from East Africa to earn a PhD, the first woman to head up a department at the University of Nairobi, and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

As a girl in a poor country, Wangari had to work against the odds to achieve these things, but she was never the kind of person to let high odds hold her back. By the mid-1970s, Wangari Maathai was a professor of anatomy, head of the Kenyan Red Cross, and involved in a number of charities and causes. But she was about to get a great idea….

Dr. Maathai could see that Kenya had two major problems—its natural environment was in bad shape, mostly due to too many trees being cut down, and there were so few jobs that many families were struggling or even starving.

Her idea was simple but brilliant: solve both problems at once by hiring unemployed people to plant more trees! This straightforward plan grew into a whole campaign to teach the people of Kenya to understand and respect the environment and each other. She called it the Green Belt Movement.

Although she went through a lot of hard times and struggled with opposition from the Kenyan government, Wangari Maathai managed to keep the Green Belt Movement alive. Then, in 1985, the United Nations held an environmental conference in Kenya, and representatives from many nations were able to see and hear what she was doing. That’s when the Green Belt Movement really took off, spreading across Kenya and Africa, and serving as a role model for many nations.

Over the years, Dr. Maathai’s group began to stand for other issues as well as the environment—issues like democracy and justice. Kenya only allowed one political party to exist, and tried to deny or stifle anyone who protested or pointed out problems.

Throughout the 1990s, Wangari Maathai and her supporters fought for broader democracy. She was threatened, arrested, beaten, and jailed—but never silenced. It took more than a decade of struggle, but finally Kenya had democratic elections with many parties represented.

Dr. Maathai was eventually elected to the national parliament, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, and planted a tree with Barack Obama. Today, she continues to work for the causes she is known for—people and the environment.

____________________________________________

This is an excerpt from the book Inspiration to Live Your MAGIC!™, 75 Inspiring Biographies by Larry Anderson. It is available as a print book from Amazon.com and as a Kindle e-book.

ebooks, video episodes and workbooks are available FREE - All Digital Media is FREE on this site