A Complex Legacy of Destruction and Peace, Alfred Nobel born 1833 October 21st


Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and the inventor of dynamite, who established the Nobel Prize.

Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. His father was an engineer and inventor. In 1842, Nobel’s family moved to Russia where his father had opened an engineering firm providing equipment for the Tsar’s armies. In 1850, Nobel’s father sent him abroad to study chemical engineering. His education turned out to be a “dynamite” idea.  During a two-year period, Nobel visited Sweden, Germany, France and the United States. He returned to Sweden in 1863 with his father after the family firm went bankrupt.

Back in Sweden, Nobel devoted himself to the study of explosives. He was particularly interested in the safe manufacture and use of nitro-glycerine, a highly unstable explosive. The danger of the work was obvious. Nobel’s brother Emil had been killed in a nitro-glycerine explosion in 1864.  He was not deterred.  In fact, he wanted to find a “safe” explosive.   Nobel incorporated nitro-glycerine into silica, an inert substance, which made it safer and easier to manipulate. This he patented in 1867 under the name of ‘dynamite’. Dynamite established Nobel’s fame and was soon used in blasting tunnels, cutting canals and building railways and roads all over the world. Nobel went on to invent a number of other explosives.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Nobel built up a network of factories all over Europe to manufacture explosives. In 1894, he bought an ironworks at Bofors in Sweden that became the nucleus of the well-known Bofors arms factory. Although he lived in Paris, Nobel travelled widely. He continued to work in his laboratory, inventing a number of synthetic materials and by the time of his death he had registered 355 patents.  The last place that he would spend any time was the location of his explosive plant.

In November 1895, Nobel signed his will providing for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes. He set aside the bulk of his huge fortune to establish annual prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. An Economics Prize was added later.

Nobel died at his home in Italy on 10 December 1896. He is buried in Stockholm.  His legacy is a complicated one.  On the one hand, he is known for his fortune gained through the manufacture of explosives which have contributed to warfare.  On the other hand, his bequeath of upon his death

New American Spelling Of English Words by Noah Webster: 1758 October 16th


National Dictionary Day is held on October 16th in honor of Noah Webster’s (1758-1843) birthday.  Webster was a spelling reformer that believed that English spelling rules were unnecessarily complex.  One wonders whether he really made things simpler, or rather just made them different.  He spent 27 years compiling 70,000 words for his dictionary.  In his publication, he introduced new, Americanized spellings that reflected his belief that the U.S. should have its own individual literature.  Observe this National Dictionary Day with some of these ideas.

He completed his dictionary during his year abroad in Paris, France, at the University of Cambridge.  Of his seventy thousand words, twelve thousand had never appeared in a published dictionary before.  It seems that he did not come to his senses even with the time in France.

Noah is responsible for changing the spelling of British words into what we know as American words.  Examples include replacing “colour” with “color,” substituting “wagon” for “waggon” and printing “center” instead of “centre.”  Webster also added American words such as “skunk” and “squash” that did not appear in British dictionaries.

  1. During his first career as a schoolteacher at the time of the American Revolution, Webster was concerned that most of his students’ textbooks came from England.  It could be argued that he should not have been surprised given the scholarly connection to England and its language.  So in 1783 he published his own American text, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The “Blue-Backed Speller,” as it was popularly known, went on to sell nearly 100 million copies over the next century.
  2. Webster subscribed to the biblical account of the origin of language, believing that all languages derived from Chaldee, an Aramaic dialect.  He had a desire to get to the source words which the English had gathered from other countries.
  3. Though he fought for a strong federal government, Webster opposed plans to include a Bill of Rights in the Constitution. “Liberty is never secured with such paper declarations,” he wrote, “nor lost for want of them.”
  4. Even though he himself borrowed shamelessly from Thomas Dilworth’s New Guide to the English Tongue (1740) and Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Webster fought vigorously to protect his own work from plagiarists. His efforts led to the creation of the first federal copyright laws in 1790.
  5. Webster’s Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806), a forerunner of An American Dictionary, sparked a “war of the dictionaries” with rival lexicographer Joseph Worcester. But Worcester’s Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory English Dictionary didn’t stand a chance. Webster’s work, with 5,000 words not included in British dictionaries and with definitions based on the usage of American writers, soon became the recognized authority.
  6. In 1810, he published a booklet on global warming titled “Are Our Winters Getting Warmer?”
  7. Although Webster is credited for introducing such distinctive American spellings as color, humor, and center (for British colour, humour, and centre), many of his innovative spellings (including masheen for machine and yung for young) failed to catch on.
  8. In 1833 he published his own edition of the Bible, updating the vocabulary of the King James Version and cleansing it of any words that he thought might be considered “offensive, especially for females.”  The guy just did not know when to stop.  It seems that he felt the “offensive” parts of the Bible were acceptable for male readers.  He elaborate of why.

“He Was Preparing Us For Life”: John Wooden (1910 October 14th)

basketball on a court

Born Oct. 14, 1910, near Martinsville, Ind., on a farm that didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing, Wooden’s life revolved around sports from the time his father built a baseball diamond among his wheat, corn and alfalfa. Baseball was his favorite sport, but there was also a basketball hoop nailed in a hayloft. Wooden played there countless hours with his brother, Maurice, using any kind of ball they could find.

Wooden guided the Bruins to seven consecutive titles from 1967 through 1973 and a record 88-game winning streak in the early 1970s. From the time of his first title following the 1963-64 season through the 10th in 1974-75, Wooden’s Bruins were 330-19, including four 30-0 seasons.


“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

“Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”

. “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

. “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

. “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

. “Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”

. “Happiness begins where selfishness ends.”

. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

. “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

. “What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”

. “Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

. “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

Wooden was a dignified, scholarly man who spoke with the precise language of the English teacher he once was. He always carried a piece of paper with a message from his father that read:

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day. Pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.”


Abdul-Jabbar recalled that there “was no ranting and raving, no histrionics or theatrics.” He continued: “To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents.

“In essence,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “he was preparing us for life.”