born October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, died December 10, 1896 in San Remo
In the first years of his life, Alfred Nobel almost shared the fate of five of his brothers and sisters who all died as small children. His childhood was marked by illness, physical weakness and deprivation. According to his biographers, it was only thanks to the loving and devoted care of his mother that Alfred survived this difficult time.
In his autobiographical poem entitled You say I am a Riddle, written in very good English when Nobel was 18, he brings to life the hard years of his childhood:
a mother watched with ever anxious care,
so little chance, to save the flickering light,
I scarce could muster strength to drain the breast,
and the convulsions followed, till I gasped
upon the brink of nothingness - my frame
a school for agony with death for goal.
Did Nobel have epileptic seizures as a child? Were the 'convulsions' of an epileptic nature? The great 20th century American epileptologist William Gordon Lennox thought so. In his epochal work Epilepsy and Related Disorders he writes: 'Nobel was subject to migraine, and to convulsions from infancy.' He is clearly referring to Nobel's poem here.
It is highly probable that the founder of the Nobel prizes did not suffer from epilepsy as an adult, but it is not impossible that Alfred had epileptic seizures as a young child, which later made him write of convulsions and agony in his poem. An epileptologist would have to say that Nobel was probably not a genius with epilepsy but could have been a genius who had occasional epileptic seizures when he was a child.
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