Alfred Nobel, Bertha von Suttner
Nobel - A Biography of Alfred Nobel, by Nicholas Halasz, 1959
Found used, for 20 cents. Mostly interesting because I learned about Bertha (Kinsky) von Suttner from it.
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was mostly tutored in languages and science. He expanded his father Immanuel's explosives business to a worldwide consortium. He invented dynamite (nitroglycerin + diatomaceous earth) in 1867, Geglenite (nitroglycerin + nitrate explosives) in 1876. He briefly met Countess Bertha Kinsky in 1876 before she eloped with Baron Arthur von Suttner. If things had turned out differently, she might have married him, and changed the course of history. B.v.S. convinced him to add the Peace Prize to his will, allocating 94% of his assets, 31,225,000 Swedish kronor, for the prize, now worth around $500M, increased by inflation and a doubling of capital value.
Lay Down Your Arms! (Die Waffen Nieder) a novel by Bertha von Suttner, 1889
Free Project Gutenberg eBook, 436 pages
Drawn from von Suttner's life as minor Austrian "semi-nobility". The fun is imagining how this novel changed the lives of its readers (mostly women?) 120+ years ago.
The novel is Victorian purple prose, about protagonist Martha von Tilling's childhood, first marriage to Austrian hussar Count Arno Dotzky , killed in the battle of Solferino in the Italian War of 1859, and her growing horror of war.
Martha meets and subsequently marries 39 yo Prussian-Austrian Lieutenant-Colonel Baron Frederick Tilling, and their sufferings through war and cholera, taking many of the protagonist's family. They are trapped in the Paris Commune during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, portrayed (probably accurately) as the result of an insane attack on Prussia driven by French warmongers, and Frederick is killed by a suspicious mob February 1, 1871.
The novel ends at the christening of her grandson in 1889, and a dream-vision of her husband with her in old age.
Bertha von Suttner, a biography by Brigitte Hamann, PSU JX1962.S8 H3613 1996
9 June 1843 – 21 June 1914
I'm touched by her working relationship with her (7 years younger) husband Arthur, who she met while she was a live-in tutor for his four younger sisters. They eloped to Mingrelia (now Georgia) in 1876, and returned to Austria in 1885. Their study (page 47) was two desks pushed together in front of the window, sharing one lamp. Their small library included Darwin and Henry Thomas Buckle, and they read the same books together.
They were poor before Die Waffen Nieder made them wealthy, and made Bertha a principal figure in the world peace movement. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, the first woman to receive an unshared Nobel prize (Marie Curie shared the 1903 Physics Prize with her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel).
von Suttner died a week before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, and four weeks before the outbreak of World War 1. Imagine how history might have turned out if she had married Nobel instead, steered him away from military explosives, and combined their energies to maintain peace in Europe, quelling the resentment over the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 that created the arms buildup that led to World War 1. Without that, no USSR, no Hitler, no European World War; perhaps western intervention to halt the Japanese aggression against Manchuria and China that expanded into the Pacific theater of World War II.
Ah well; the world would have found another way to be wicked.