Ludwig, Robert, and Alfred Nobel founded an oil company in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1876, and transformed it into a shareholding company headquartered in St. Petersburg in 1879. At the start of the 20th century, 50% of the world’s oil extraction was centered in Baku, and the Nobel brothers owned about 40% of that production. They named their company Branoble, which was short for “Nobel Brothers” in Russian, and by 1916, they were the largest oil company in Russia. The firm could not withstand the Russian Revolution, thus when Bolsheviks seized power in Baku in 1920, they nationalized all oil production in Azerbaijan.
Alfred Nobel, famous for the invention of dynamite, and the largest individual investor in the company, endowed $265 million to the fund for the Nobel prize after his death in 1896. About 12% of his personal capital came from his shares in the family’s oil business. It is thought that as much of 22% of the foundation’s endowment comes from wealth earned from the Branoble oil company. Alfred felt strongly about supporting the Nobel Foundation. The first Nobel Prize was awarded to his brother Ludwig by the Imperial Russian Technological Society in 1888 for his contributions to the oil and metallurgy sector. Alfred’s Will specified the fields in which the Nobel Prize should be awarded, and stated that the Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congress.”
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