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Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896)

Chemist, innovator, inventor of dynamite

In the 19th century, a Swedish scientist’s invention changed the entire landscape of war and peace.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born on the 21st of October 1833 in Stockholm Sweden and was the inventor of dynamite and the man who established the Nobel Prize.

His childhood was rather hard because his family was very poor. His parents had eight children, but only Alfred and three of his brothers survived past childhood.

Alfred was interested in chemistry, engineering and especially explosives from a very young age. His father, who was a businessman also taught him many things.

His father was a courageous man and did not let poverty bring him down. After many business failures, he started making machine tools and explosives.

He went on to invent plywood, and the torpedo. This made them very rich, which allowed him to give Alfred a proper education.

Alfred was brilliant at chemistry, but also in English, French, German, and Russian.

Because of his strong interest in chemistry, Alfred went to America where he studied the science for four years.

Nobel’s first licensed invention was the gas meter in 1857. He was only 24 years old.

His family’s success in making weapons allowed them to produce and supply weapons during the Crimean War (1853 – 1856), but afterwards the business suffered.

His father handed it over to his second son who improved it very much. Nobel and his family, who were in Russian at this time, moved back to Sweden.

He was not concerned with destruction and devoted a lot of his time to how nitroglycerine could be used safely.

In 1863, Nobel invented the detonator (that activates a blast) and two years later, he designed the blasting cap.

Sadly, during his many experiments with nitroglycerine a few accidents (explosions) happened. During one of these, his younger brother Emil died too.

Even so, he carried on, constantly trying to improve these explosives to make them stable so that they would not accidently go off. His work was very dangerous.

Finally, at 34 years, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, a substance that was easier and safer than nitroglycerine.

Dynamite was used in America and England for blowing up rocks and mountains for mining and building roads and railroads.

Nobel continued his work, and invented a substance called Gelignite, which was more powerful and stable than dynamite. This was the year 1875; Nobel was 42 years old.

Two years later, Nobel received the licence for Ballistite, which is a smokeless explosive, and for Cordite, another smokeless explosive that replaced common gunpowder.

During his lifetime, he had earned about 350 licenses for different inventions internationally, and at the time of his death, he had established 90 weapons making factories around the world.

He never married because he was always travelling as he had many companies around the world.

He was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences when he was 51 years old and received other awards for his great scientific breakthroughs.

Towards the end of his life, he moved to Italy where he finally passed away in 1896 from a brain bleed (cerebral haemorrhage). He was 63 years old.

Before his death, a newspaper accidently published his obituary instead of his brother’s. What he read made him realized what the world actually thought of him; and it was not good.

The article accused him of becoming rich by making things that would kill people faster. He was so upset with this that he decided to leave a better legacy of himself.

He established the Nobel Prize because of this, which he wanted awarded to anyone who was great at a special area, from any country around the world.

Alfred Nobel’s legacy still lives today with every Nobel Prize that is awarded to brilliant minds irrespective of which country they come from.