Alfred Nobel: Merchant of Death, Man of Peace

article by Linda Barnard , Photo courtesy Alamy

Compose a diary entry as Alfred Nobel on the day that he read his obituary.

Read the article. After reading, contrast the introductory paragraph (from ‘Alfred Nobel bolted…’ to ‘…try to help people’) with the text that appears in the rest of the article underneath the subheadings. Ask students:

What is different about the introductory paragraph?

Students may recognise that it sounds more like a narrative than an article. This is because it contains many imagined descriptions of his actions and feelings and does not contain a lot of facts and details about his life.

Introduce students to the concept of subjective and objective writing:

Subjective writing: when an author shows things in a positive or negative light and shares feelings and opinions

Objective writing: when an author tries to remain neutral and just give facts about a topic

Instruct students to skim read the article again, highlighting examples of objective and subjective writing in two different colours. Alternatively, provide them with a list of quotations from the article (example below) which they need to cut and paste into an Objective/Subjective T-chart:

He shuddered as he read the list of his life’s accomplishments. (Subjective: Nobel’s feelings.)

Nobel was born in 1833 near Stockholm, Sweden and, as a young man he worked in his father’s laboratory. (Objective)

Nobel felt responsible for each death. (Objective)

[He] was appalled to see it become popular with armies. (Objective)

When not working in his laboratory Nobel corresponded with friends and associates around the world. (Objective)

Nobel decided to leave his massive fortune to benefit humanity. (Subjective: author’s opinion.)

Because of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, many hardworking, deserving persons are recognized yearly … (Subjective: author’s opinion.)

Next, use a Graphic Organiser: Cause and Effect to summarise Nobel’s achievements (positive and negative), as described in the article. Add a third column, where students imagine what Nobel was feeling or his opinion about this invention. For example,

Use nitroglycerine for mining, road building and tunnel making.

Nobel was unaware of its power and there were many explosive accidents and deaths (including his brother).

Nobel might have been angry at himself for underestimating the power of his invention. Also he would have felt a lot of grief and responsibility for all the deaths caused.

After completing this graphic organiser, students should identify what they think were the three most significant effects of his inventions (for example: the death of brother, smokeless gunpowder used in war, leaving his fortune to create the Nobel prize). Instruct students to write a diary entry about these three events, using subjective language.