2012 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: The EU

On October 12, the European Union was announced as the winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. The EU became the 20th organization to receive this honor since 1901.

Alfred Nobel

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Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and inventor, created the set of five prizes that bear his name when he wrote his will in 1895. Best known for inventing dynamite, much of Nobel’s work fueled the creation of armaments used by countries at war. In contrast, Nobel’s legacy celebrates the work of those who promote peace. In addition to the Peace prize, the Nobel committee awards annual prizes to significant contributions in the field of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology, and Literature.

Nobel spent most of his youth in St. Petersburg, Russia where his father worked for the czar and invented sea mines. Nobel and his three brothers were educated at home by private tutors. By the time he was 18, Nobel could speak Swedish, Russian, French, English, and German fluently.

As a lifelong bachelor, Nobel met a woman by the name of Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau. He hired Bertha as his housekeeper and personal secretary in 1876. While she didn’t stay employed with Nobel long, the two wrote letters to one another for the rest of Nobel’s life. Bertha was a peace activist and she tried to encourage Nobel to become involved in her work. He donated money to her cause but did little more to become actively involved.

“Justice is to be found only in the imagination.” – Alfred Nobel

Most scientists and inventors living in the 19th century did not necessarily believe they had a responsibility for how their inventions would ultimately be used. From what we know of Alfred Nobel, he did not work to invent things that could be used for killing and warfare. Instead, Nobel assumed the destructive nature of his inventions, like dynamite, would deter people from using them in times of war.

Over the course of his lifetime, Nobel registered more than 350 patents for his various inventions. He owned 90 factories across Europe and America. And, he was an investor in his brothers’ oil venture in Russia. At the time of his death, Nobel left the vast majority of his fortune to fund the Nobel Prizes.

Explore the Nobel Peace Prize

  1. 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Learning Packet
    The Nobel Peace Prize Activities packet is geared towards 9th and 10th grade students studying World History. It can also be used with advanced 7th and 8th graders. The activities are designed to supplement a world history curriculum. The packet contains general outlines for implementing four learning activities and suggestions for three additional extension ideas. A mapping exercise introduces the European Union to students. A timeline activity allows the teacher to recap significant events in EU history. A debating activity develops critical thinking skills that evaluate significant contributions made by Nobel Laureates. And finally, a 1-page writing assignment allows students to identify with a range of Nobel Laureates based on gender, race, religion, or ethnicity.


  2. Alfred Nobel: Video Biography


  3. BBC Nobel Peace Prize Quiz
    See how much you know about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize by taking this high school level quiz.


  4. Conflict Map

    This interactive map traces more than 100 years of wars across the world. Scroll through the decades to find out more about each conflict. Additionally, you’ll be able to see who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time.


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