Nobel, Alfred Bernhard

Swedish inventor

Born: Stockholm, October 21, 1833

Died: San Remo, Italy, December 10, 1896


Nobel was the son of an inventor and became interested when his father began to experiment with explosives. He was particularly interested in nitroglycerine which had been discovered about ten years before. He setup a factory in Sweden to manufacture nitroglycerine which was to be used primarily for mining and earthmoving. Unfortunately, there were numerous accidents, as nitroglycerine is extremely volatile, and the entire factory blew up in 1864, killing Nobels brother. The Swedish government refused to allow the factory to be rebuilt.

Nobel set to work to make nitroglycerine safer. He conducted experiments on a barge in the middle of a lake to ensure safety. In 1866, he found that a mixture of nitroglycerine and diatomaceous earth could only be set off by using a detonating cap. He called this invention "dynamite".

Dynamite was widely used to open up the American West. Nobel also invented blasting gelatin and became wealthy in explosives and oil exploration.

Nobel was horrified when explosives began to be used in warfare, and when he died he left a fund of $9,200,000 of annual prizes, called the Nobel prizes in five categories: Peace, Literature, Physics, Chemistry and Medicine, to be awarded to deserving candidates.

The Nobel Institute in Sweden is named after him and because element 102 was first isolated there in 1958, it was named nobelium.

The first scientist to be honoured with a Nobel prize was Roentgen, whose discovery of X-rays revolutionized the field of medicine.

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