An eponym is a word that comes from a name, and few words are as famous in science as Nobel, courtesy of the Nobel Prizes that bear his name. One hundred years ago today Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel died at the age of sixty three. Although he was an incredibly prolific scientist and businessman, he is chiefly remembered as the inventor of dynamite. Five years after his death, the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Frédéric Passy co-founder of theInter-Parliamentary Union and Henry Dunant, who was founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The first Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to poet Sully Prudhomme, causing the first Nobel scandal as many expected the great Russian novelist Lev Tolstoy to win. The first Nobel Prize in Physics went to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the first prize for Chemistry went to Jacobus van’t Hoff.
Today the Nobel Prize is known as the prize recognising and rewarding the greatest achievement in science.
Image of Alfred Nobel in the public domain, photo by Gösta Florman (1831–1900) / The Royal Library.