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How Did the Nobel Prize Become the Biggest Award on the Planet?

Although there are awards and prizes in almost every scientific discipline, as well as art, tech, and other fields, the Nobel Prize is the most well-known. In fact, other awards are constantly compared to the Nobel. Wired has the story of how the Nobel Prize became so big, which begins with its strange origin.   

It all began with a journalistic error. In 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote that Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, had died. It was actually his brother, Ludvig, who had passed. But, in addition to lackluster fact checking, the paper commemorated the event with defamatory prose: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday,” it wrote. Nobel, it is said, was crushed by the idea that he’d be remembered as a “merchant of death.” In order to regain control of his legacy, he willed his fortune to create an award that would recognize people who had made positive contributions to mankind.

Imagine finding out what would be said about on your death: would it cause you to change the rest of your life? But that’s just the beginning of the story. There are several reasons the Nobel Prize stands head and shoulders above other awards, spelled out at Wired. The Nobel Prizes for 2014 are being announced each day this week.

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