Alfred Nobel Biography
A breif biography of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, an instument of war, and the creator of the Nobel Prize, an instument of peace.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in 1833, in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a Swedish chemist, inventor, engineer, and philanthropist. He was educated in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in the United States of America, where he studied mathematical reasoning.
Alfred Nobel knew how to speak several languages. He traveled widely and wrote poetry. After his schooling, he returned to St. Petersburg to work in his father’s factory. He developed mines, torpedoes, and other explosives there. After a factory explosion in his family-owned factory that killed his younger brother and four other people in 1864, he tried to find a safe way of handling nitroglycerin, a powerful explosive derived from glycerin, by treatment with a mixture of concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids.
He made a nitroglycerin explosive, but so many accidents occurred when it was put on the market that Nobel was considered a public enemy for a number of years. After the accident that killed Nobel’s brother and four others, officials banned all experiments with nitroglycerin within the city. Nobel was forced to carry out his work on a barge in the middle of a lake outside the city. Most people who ventured close enough to this floating fortress thought it was a factory of terror.
In 1867, Alfred Nobel achieved his goal. He used organic packaging to reduce the volatility of the nitroglycerin. He made what he called dynamite. Dynamite is an explosive consisting of a mixture of nitroglycerin and diatomaceous earth. It was a very useful tool for industry, but it could also be used for death and destruction. Nobel, however, made a lot of money making and selling dynamite and soon was one of the richest men in the world.
In 1889, he invented ballisite, which is one of the first smokeless gun powders.
He owned factories for the production of explosives in many parts of the world.
Nobel was a lonely, melancholy man who never married or had any children. He was never in good health. He became increasingly nervous. He felt guilty that he created a substance that created so much death and injury. He hated that it could be used in war because he made it for peace. Alfred Nobel didn’t believe in leaving money to family members because he thought it would make them lazy. With a prize in mind that rewarded those who contributed materially to the benefit of mankind, Nobel, seated in the Swedish Club of Paris, on November 27, 1895, in the presence of four witnesses, writing on a torn half sheet of paper, signed a brief, homemade will establishing the Nobel prizes. Two weeks later, he was dead.
The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in December 1901. They were prizes for peace, literature, medicine, physics, and chemistry. In 1969, a sixth prize was created for economics. It is one of the most honorable prizes a person or organization can receive.
Some winners of the Nobel Prize were Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Marie S. Curie, Alexander Fleming, Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Theodore Roosevelt, UNICEF, Henry Kissinger, Mother Theresa, and Dalai Lama.
In 1957, an element was named after Nobel. Nobelium, a metallic element produced artificially by bombarding curium with carbon ions, is highly radioactive. Russian scientists in Dubna discovered this element.
Alfred Nobel was a great man and scientist. He may not be remembered as the creator of dynamite, an instrument of death, but he will always be remembered as the creator of the Nobel Prize, a reward for peace.