During his life and soon after his death Alfred Nobel’s name was synonymous with war, weapons manufacturing, and dynamite (his most famous invention).
It wasn’t until a newspaper prematurely published Nobel’s obituary stating “the merchant of death is dead” that Nobel realized he wanted to change his legacy.
When Nobel’s brother died in France it was reported by French newspapers, but at least one such obituary mistook Nobel’s brother for himself.
This paper ran the headline “the merchant of death is dead,” condemned Nobel for his invention of dynamite, and described him as a man who had made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who had ever lived.
Nobel was once quoted defending his weapon manufacturing empire:
Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses: on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilised nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops.
However, with the unusual opportunity of reading his own obituary before his death, Alfred Nobel decided he would dedicate in his will a substantial part of his wealth to institute the Nobel Prize so that he might be remembered differently in the future.
Ironically the Nobel Peace Prize was born of a war profiteer.