Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Nobel, Alfred Bernhard (1833-1896), a Swedish chemist, manufacturer, and philanthropist. He invented dynamite and established the Nobel prizes. Nobel took out, in all, 129 patents. Among his other inventions were ballistite (one of the first smokeless powders, used as a propellant in ammunition) and blasting gelatin.

Alfred NobelAlfred Nobel

Nobel was born in Stockholm, the son of an inventor who manufactured submarine mines and torpedoes for the Russian government. The father took Alfred to St. Petersburg in 1842. When Alfred was 17, his father sent him to the United States to study engineering under John Ericsson, designer of the ironclad naval vessel Monitor. Young Nobel then studied engineering in Russia. He returned to Sweden with his father in 1859. They opened a chemical plant near Stockholm where nitroglycerin was produced. The plant was destroyed by an explosion that killed Alfred's brother and permanently injured his father.

Because of the danger, several governments prohibited the transportation of nitroglycerin. In 1866 Nobel introduced dynamite, in which nitroglycerin is absorbed so that it may be transported safely. Within a few years, he was one of the world's wealthiest men. His oil interests in Russia brought him huge profits in addition to those he received from the manufacture of various kinds of explosives. When Nobel died, he left a will directing that interest from a sum of approximately $9,000,000 be given as prizes for achievements in science and literature and for work contributing to world peace.