Famous Last Wills and Testaments of Scientists, Inventors, and Explorers
Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of scientists, inventors, and explorers including Nobel, Edison, and Einstein.
Christopher Columbus Spanish mariner Died: 1506
Last Will: The discoverer of America directed that, among a list of his obligations, payment of one half mark in silver be made to "a Jew who lived at the entrance to the ghetto in Lisbon, or to another one who may be named by a priest." Speculation that he ordered the payment because he himself was Jewish has been further fanned by scholars who point out that his use of contemporary Jewish expressions and viewpoints indicates a firsthand study of Jewish literature.
Alfred Nobel Swedish chemist and inventor Died: 1896
Last Will: The inventor of dynamite and nitroglycerin directed that his property be sold for cash, with the proceeds to be invested in safe securities that produced income. From the income accruing annually, prizes were to be awarded ". . . to those persons who shall contribute most materially to benefiting mankind during the year immediately preceding." The money was to be divided into 5 equal shares and given for the most important discovery or invention in physics, physiology or medicine, chemistry, literature, or in the cause of universal peace. Nobel directed that all prizes except the one for peace be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Science. The latter prize was to be determined by a committee of 5 who had been elected by Norway's Storting. Although Nobel's prizes were to be given with "no consideration whatever . . . paid to the nationality of the candidates, that is to say, that the most deserving be awarded the prize, whether he or she be a Scandanavian or not . . .," the selection of winners has sometimes been challenged, with critics claiming that Nobel's directive has been violated.
Thomas Alva Edison American inventor Died: 1931
Last Will: Left most of $12 million to his 2nd wife's children. William, his son by his 1st wife, challenged the codicil, executed when Edison was 84, charging undue influence. He claimed the codicil cut his bequest from an annual income of $650,000 to $130,000.
T. E. Lawrence British adventurer Died: 1935
Last Will: A legend in his lifetime, "Lawrence of Arabia"--who died of injuries received in a motorcycle accident--left pound 100 to each of his 2 executors, along with his only copy of Shelley's poems.
Albert Einstein American physicist Died: 1955
Last Will: After disposition of an estate of $65,000, Einstein left his manuscripts and royalties to Hebrew University, and his beloved violin to his grandson.
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