Stocks and News
Home | Week in Review Process | Terms of Use | About UsContact Us
   Articles Go Fund Me All-Species List Hot Spots Go Fund Me
Week in Review   |  Bar Chat    |  Hot Spots    |   Dr. Bortrum    |   Wall St. History
Stock and News: Hot Spots
  Search Our Archives: 
 

 

Dr. Bortrum

 

AddThis Feed Button

http://www.gofundme.com/s3h2w8

 

   

06/06/2007

Bertha's Prize?

I don’t believe air conditioning was ever recognized with a
Nobel Prize. Air conditioning is not fully appreciated until it’s
missing, as was the case last steamy Saturday when my wife and
I attended an afternoon memorial service in an air condition-less
church. I was drenched and, after a shower, it was off with Brian
Trumbore, who had gotten us tickets to see Bill Cosby at the
Morristown Community Theater, also sans air conditioning. We
were seated a couple of rows from the top in the balcony – it was
hot! Cosby, in a jogging outfit and sneakers, was in good form
and one of the more humorous moments was when a lady in the
audience yelled out, “There’s no air!”

Cosby got out of his chair, called the gal up front and explained
to her that there wasn’t any air and that he had done another
show a few hours earlier, when it was even hotter. He ended up
giving her one of the two bottles of water that he had on stage,
leaving him to ration his sipping on the remaining bottle during
the rest of his 90 or so minutes on stage. Refreshingly, his only
use of an f-word was in reference to a fart!

After my recent columns on Einstein and Nobel Prizes, I
promised myself I would lay off any more Nobel topics for a
while. Then I read an article on Peter Agre by Eliot Marshall in
the May 25 issue of Science. Could Minnesota elect another
unlikely figure to high political office? First there was wrestler
Jesse Ventura as governor. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing but
respect for anyone able to choreograph all those horrible-looking
falls, punches and kicks and emerge unscathed. Now I read that
Agre, the 2003 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, plans a possible
run in Minnesota for U.S. Senate in 2008. Should he run and be
elected, he would be the first Nobel laureate to be a member of
that august body. At this point, he has a couple of formidable
opponents in the Democratic primary. One is a popular attorney;
the other is Al Franken, the political humorist and commentator.
It should be an interesting race to follow!

Also, last week my wife called my attention to a Scientific
American publication from 1991 titled “The Laureates’
Anthology. Vol. II”. The volume, which survived our flooded
basement episode, is a collection of articles by Nobel Prize
winners with an introductory 1949 article by George W. Gray
titled “The Nobel Prizes”. Gray’s article included a copy of a
portion of Nobel’s handwritten will dated November 27, 1895
that sets up the prize structure.

You probably know that Nobel, who invented dynamite and
supplied munitions to the armies of Europe, wanted to leave a
legacy to counter his image as one associated with war. You
may not know of the role played by Bertha Kinsky in the Nobel
story. Countess Bertha Kinsky came into the picture when she
answered an ad placed by Nobel in a Vienna paper in 1876. The
ad read: “Elderly, cultured, wealthy gentleman requires equally
mature lady, linguist, as secretary and supervisor of household in
Paris.” The “elderly” Nobel was only 43! The “equally mature”
Kinsky, only 33, answered the ad and became Nobel’s secretary.
Amazingly, in a very short time (a few days or weeks?), she
eloped with a Baron von Suttner and moved to Russia.

Baroness von Suttner must have been quite a gal. Nobel had
developed such an admiration for her in the short time of her
employ that they kept in touch. In the 1880s, she became a peace
activist and wrote a novel titled “Lay down Arms” published in
1889. Nobel lauded her novel but didn’t share her views on how
to achieve lasting peace. Nobel thought he might invent
something so destructive as to make wars unthinkable. (We’ve
since come up with just such a weapon in the nuclear bomb but
still manage to have devastating wars without using it.)

In 1892, Nobel hosted the von Suttners in Zurich. He and the
Baroness had serious discussions about their conflicting views.
Nobel told Bertha that, if she could convince him of the merits of
her arguments, he would do “something great for her
movement.” She left Zurich thinking she had failed to convince
him but a New Year’s card from Nobel in 1893 revealed just the
opposite. Nobel said that he planned to devote part of his fortune
to a prize fund that every five years would be distributed to “a
man or woman who had done the most to advance the idea of
general peace in Europe.”

A few months later, in March of 1893, Nobel upped the ante
considerably when he wrote a will leaving his residual estate to
the Royal Academy of Science at Stockholm. He specified that
the Academy distribute the income annually “as a reward for the
most important discoveries or achievements in the wide field of
knowledge and progress, excluding physiology and medicine.”
What influenced him to expand the scope of the awards and why
he excluded medicine remains a mystery.

Later, Nobel, who was ill and aging, decided he had not been
specific enough and apparently had second thoughts about
physiology and medicine. In 1895, he left his villa in Italy to
journey to the Swedish Club in Paris, where he rewrote his will
without consulting any lawyers, whom he disdained as much as
he did doctors. (In my first column [5/12/1999] I noted that
Nobel refused to take nitroglycerin prescribed by his doctor for
his ailing heart.) He had four of his buddies at the Swedish Club
witness the will. Two were civil engineers, one a “constructor”
and the other a “former lieutenant”.

The will (full text on the Nobel Web site) lists numerous
bequests to various relatives and other individuals. Only one
paragraph concerned the prizes. Nobel specified that the
remainder of his estate should be placed in a fund, the interest on
which should be distributed annually as prizes “to those who,
during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest
benefits to mankind.” He specified the sum should be split into
five equal parts to be distributed in the fields of physics,
chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and “to the person
who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity
between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies
and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” No
consideration was to be given to nationality.

The will also designated the Swedish and Norwegian entities that
were to determine the different prizewinners. As might be
expected with the bulk of the estate going to others, nieces and
nephews contested the will after his death in 1896. They settled
out of court “for certain pecuniary advantages” never revealed.
There were other problems. Who was to get the money? Nobel
specified who would determine the awardees but not who would
take possession of the money! A Nobel Foundation was formed
to handle that task.

Prizes were to be awarded to “the person” for efforts “during the
preceding year”. The latter was violated right from the start
when the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901 went to Wilhelm
Roentgen for his discovery of X-rays back in 1895. “The
person” was multiple persons as early as 1902, when Hendrik
Lorentz and Pieter Zeeman shared the physics prize for their
1896 discovery of the “Zeeman effect”, the splitting of spectral
lines in a strong magnetic field. Fittingly, in 1905 Bertha von
Suttner got the Nobel Peace Prize. Her discussions with Nobel
that led to the establishment of the prize paid off!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate our grandson
Douglas, who nailed his tenor sax solos in the jointure jazz band
concert on Sunday in an auditorium devoid of air conditioning.

Allen F. Bortrum



AddThis Feed Button

 

-06/06/2007-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Dr. Bortrum

06/06/2007

Bertha's Prize?

I don’t believe air conditioning was ever recognized with a
Nobel Prize. Air conditioning is not fully appreciated until it’s
missing, as was the case last steamy Saturday when my wife and
I attended an afternoon memorial service in an air condition-less
church. I was drenched and, after a shower, it was off with Brian
Trumbore, who had gotten us tickets to see Bill Cosby at the
Morristown Community Theater, also sans air conditioning. We
were seated a couple of rows from the top in the balcony – it was
hot! Cosby, in a jogging outfit and sneakers, was in good form
and one of the more humorous moments was when a lady in the
audience yelled out, “There’s no air!”

Cosby got out of his chair, called the gal up front and explained
to her that there wasn’t any air and that he had done another
show a few hours earlier, when it was even hotter. He ended up
giving her one of the two bottles of water that he had on stage,
leaving him to ration his sipping on the remaining bottle during
the rest of his 90 or so minutes on stage. Refreshingly, his only
use of an f-word was in reference to a fart!

After my recent columns on Einstein and Nobel Prizes, I
promised myself I would lay off any more Nobel topics for a
while. Then I read an article on Peter Agre by Eliot Marshall in
the May 25 issue of Science. Could Minnesota elect another
unlikely figure to high political office? First there was wrestler
Jesse Ventura as governor. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing but
respect for anyone able to choreograph all those horrible-looking
falls, punches and kicks and emerge unscathed. Now I read that
Agre, the 2003 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, plans a possible
run in Minnesota for U.S. Senate in 2008. Should he run and be
elected, he would be the first Nobel laureate to be a member of
that august body. At this point, he has a couple of formidable
opponents in the Democratic primary. One is a popular attorney;
the other is Al Franken, the political humorist and commentator.
It should be an interesting race to follow!

Also, last week my wife called my attention to a Scientific
American publication from 1991 titled “The Laureates’
Anthology. Vol. II”. The volume, which survived our flooded
basement episode, is a collection of articles by Nobel Prize
winners with an introductory 1949 article by George W. Gray
titled “The Nobel Prizes”. Gray’s article included a copy of a
portion of Nobel’s handwritten will dated November 27, 1895
that sets up the prize structure.

You probably know that Nobel, who invented dynamite and
supplied munitions to the armies of Europe, wanted to leave a
legacy to counter his image as one associated with war. You
may not know of the role played by Bertha Kinsky in the Nobel
story. Countess Bertha Kinsky came into the picture when she
answered an ad placed by Nobel in a Vienna paper in 1876. The
ad read: “Elderly, cultured, wealthy gentleman requires equally
mature lady, linguist, as secretary and supervisor of household in
Paris.” The “elderly” Nobel was only 43! The “equally mature”
Kinsky, only 33, answered the ad and became Nobel’s secretary.
Amazingly, in a very short time (a few days or weeks?), she
eloped with a Baron von Suttner and moved to Russia.

Baroness von Suttner must have been quite a gal. Nobel had
developed such an admiration for her in the short time of her
employ that they kept in touch. In the 1880s, she became a peace
activist and wrote a novel titled “Lay down Arms” published in
1889. Nobel lauded her novel but didn’t share her views on how
to achieve lasting peace. Nobel thought he might invent
something so destructive as to make wars unthinkable. (We’ve
since come up with just such a weapon in the nuclear bomb but
still manage to have devastating wars without using it.)

In 1892, Nobel hosted the von Suttners in Zurich. He and the
Baroness had serious discussions about their conflicting views.
Nobel told Bertha that, if she could convince him of the merits of
her arguments, he would do “something great for her
movement.” She left Zurich thinking she had failed to convince
him but a New Year’s card from Nobel in 1893 revealed just the
opposite. Nobel said that he planned to devote part of his fortune
to a prize fund that every five years would be distributed to “a
man or woman who had done the most to advance the idea of
general peace in Europe.”

A few months later, in March of 1893, Nobel upped the ante
considerably when he wrote a will leaving his residual estate to
the Royal Academy of Science at Stockholm. He specified that
the Academy distribute the income annually “as a reward for the
most important discoveries or achievements in the wide field of
knowledge and progress, excluding physiology and medicine.”
What influenced him to expand the scope of the awards and why
he excluded medicine remains a mystery.

Later, Nobel, who was ill and aging, decided he had not been
specific enough and apparently had second thoughts about
physiology and medicine. In 1895, he left his villa in Italy to
journey to the Swedish Club in Paris, where he rewrote his will
without consulting any lawyers, whom he disdained as much as
he did doctors. (In my first column [5/12/1999] I noted that
Nobel refused to take nitroglycerin prescribed by his doctor for
his ailing heart.) He had four of his buddies at the Swedish Club
witness the will. Two were civil engineers, one a “constructor”
and the other a “former lieutenant”.

The will (full text on the Nobel Web site) lists numerous
bequests to various relatives and other individuals. Only one
paragraph concerned the prizes. Nobel specified that the
remainder of his estate should be placed in a fund, the interest on
which should be distributed annually as prizes “to those who,
during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest
benefits to mankind.” He specified the sum should be split into
five equal parts to be distributed in the fields of physics,
chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and “to the person
who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity
between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies
and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” No
consideration was to be given to nationality.

The will also designated the Swedish and Norwegian entities that
were to determine the different prizewinners. As might be
expected with the bulk of the estate going to others, nieces and
nephews contested the will after his death in 1896. They settled
out of court “for certain pecuniary advantages” never revealed.
There were other problems. Who was to get the money? Nobel
specified who would determine the awardees but not who would
take possession of the money! A Nobel Foundation was formed
to handle that task.

Prizes were to be awarded to “the person” for efforts “during the
preceding year”. The latter was violated right from the start
when the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901 went to Wilhelm
Roentgen for his discovery of X-rays back in 1895. “The
person” was multiple persons as early as 1902, when Hendrik
Lorentz and Pieter Zeeman shared the physics prize for their
1896 discovery of the “Zeeman effect”, the splitting of spectral
lines in a strong magnetic field. Fittingly, in 1905 Bertha von
Suttner got the Nobel Peace Prize. Her discussions with Nobel
that led to the establishment of the prize paid off!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate our grandson
Douglas, who nailed his tenor sax solos in the jointure jazz band
concert on Sunday in an auditorium devoid of air conditioning.

Allen F. Bortrum