Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896) Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, inventor, philanthropist, and some say was the first mad scientist. [ web Eventually, blowing up things was a part of his everyday life. Born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, Alfred Nobel led a rough life. He was constantly sick, due to extremely poor housing conditions, cold winters, and unending poverty. [ web Alfred was one of eight children, which was a contributing factor in the poverty. Only four of the children managed to stay alive to reach adulthood. [ web Alfred's father, Immanuel, was originally an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm. Because of his ties with construction, he also experimented with different methods for blasting rocks. He wasn't making much of a living at this, and his family drastically needed money, so he opened and operated a mechanical workshop that provided supplies for the Russian army.
The profit from the mechanical workshop was looking promising. [Alfred Nobel: A Biography] On the side, Immanuel was still into engineering and was designing navel mines (which were simply submerged wooden casks filled with gunpowder) for the Russians. They anchored them underwater off the Gulf of Finland to stop the British Royal Navy from coming into firing range of St. Petersburg, since the Crimean war was going on at this time. And if all these jobs weren't enough to tackle, Immanuel was also beginning to design steam engines.
As for Immanuel's wife, Andrietta, (originally born Andrietta Ahl sell) she started a grocery store to make ends meet for the family. The family she had come from was very affluent, and they lent her the money to start the business, as they could see what financial trouble the family wa in. [ web Both businesses were taking off and suddenly income was coming in fairly regularly. With the extra money, Immanuel decided to send 17-year-old Alfred around the world to study chemical engineering. [Alfred Nobel: A Biography] Although Alfred's primary interests were in English literature and poetry, his father disapproved and tried to steer him more towards chemistry and physics. [Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science] Alfred first traveled to Germany, then to Paris, where he worked with the well-known French chemist J.T. Pelouze. He learned several different languages while in Paris, including Swedish, Russian, French, English and German, that would help him to become successful later down the road. [ web Now in 1853, the Crimean war was into full swing.
Immanuel's business was profiting even more than before, since he was selling supplies to the Russian army. Profit even reached an all-time high. Business was booming like never before. Once word reached Alfred, he chose to return to home and help out. [ web Three years later the war ended.
Obviously and as one would predict, the family's company hit rock bottom. Bankruptcy was becoming closer and closer to reality. [ web The Nobel family returned to Sweden and rented a small estate just outside of Stockholm in a town called Helene borg. With much time on his hands, Alfred began practicing some chemistry. [ web He realized gunpowder (also known as black powder at the time) was the only explosive currently available, and it was only effective to an extent. Gunpowder didn t work in many cases and projects, especially those involving hard rock. The rock had to be broken down with hammers. Alfred and his father began pondering an alternative.
Immanuel was already somewhat knowledgeable in regards to blasting rock, since his previous job involved experimenting with such a thing. [Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science] Shortly after, the two toyed with the idea of using nitroglycerine. Mixing glycerin with sulfuric and nitric acid produced a result that was extremely explosive. It was previously discovered in 1847 by the Italian chemist Ascanio Sombrero. [ web Alfred knew Ascanio already, having worked with him during his stay in Paris. By 1861, Alfred and Immanuel Nobel were producing nitroglycerin on their own. Within their first few encounters with the substance, they discovered it was terribly unstable and explosive.
So dangerous that Alfred's lab blew up in 1864, killing his younger brother and several others. The explosion was heard all over Stockholm. His reputation was going down in flames. He was having many doubts in himself as an inventor. A bizarre incident a few years later made him realize exactly what others thought of him. [ web Alfred's brother Ludwig passed away while staying in Cannes, France. His obituary was printed in the French newspapers, only they confused the brothers and thought Alfred had died.
One French newspaper's headline read: Le marchand de la mort est mort, which means, The merchant of death is dead! Alfred read the paper and was crushed. Now he knew how others really viewed him and his experimenting. He almost gave inventing up but changed his mind after speaking to his father, who gave him many words of inspiration and encouragement. [ web Nobel continued to produce nitroglycerin and the American railroads began to use it to blast out track beds and other of the like. The Europeans were tunneling the Alps with it.
Regularly, almost on a day-to-day basis, workmen were being killed by the nitroglycerin. It was unbelievably dangerous, but it was very effective. Not many years later, Alfred began working independently to create a form of nitroglycerin that was stable, one that wouldn t blow up without notice. After many more mishaps with nitroglycerin and many more deaths, Alfred stumbled upon a solution. While working in his lab, he mistakenly dropped some nitroglycerin into a pile of sawdust at his feet. Alfred thought his life was about to end, but surprisingly it didn t and he lived to market his discovery.
He concluded that nitroglycerin would be stable if packed in a soft, dry substance, such as sawdust. [ web He named his newfound product "dynamite", from the Greek word dynam is, meaning, "power". [ web His request for patents were granted in Great Britain and issued in 1867. The next year, a patent was issued in the United States. Nobel was becoming famous and dynamite was being used widely across the world for blasting tunnels, cutting canals, and building railways and roads. [ web To expand his profits Nobel built a network of factories throughout Europe, manufacturing dynamite. Over time he managed to build laboratories and factories in over ninety different places in over twenty different countries. He continued to live in Paris most of his life, but he proceeded to travel all over the world.
Although he invented what some would define as "the greatest explosive of all time", he still longed to invent things. Over the years, he created materials including synthetic rubber and leather, artificial silk, etc. By 1896 he had 355 patents. [ web Because Alfred Nobel was such an avid inventor and traveled so frequently, it didn t leave much time for his personal life. By the time he was forty-three years old, he described himself as "feeling like an old man".
He wanted a lifelong partner. He placed an add in a newspaper, which read as the following: "Wealthy, highly-educated elderly gentleman seeks lady of mature age, versed in languages, as secretary and supervisor of household". Several women responded but the most qualified applicant turned out to be an Austrian woman by the name of Countess Bertha Kinky. [ web She worked for Nobel for a very short time, then chose to return to Austria and marry Count Arthur von Suttner. Nobel was deeply upset and hurt, but despite of this incident Alfred and Bertha von Suttner remained good friends and wrote letters back and forth for decades and decades. Bertha von Suttner went on to become a prominent woman in many aspects.
She wrote a book entitled, Lay Down Your Arms, which became very famous. She was also a leader in the peace movement of that era. Aware of this, Nobel was greatly inspired by Bertha von Suttner. He was very proud of her accomplishments and chose to include her in his final will. His last will and testament read as follows: "The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way. The capital shall be invested by my executors in safe securities and shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.
The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvements; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical works by the Caroling Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee for five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, so that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not". This was written in Paris on November 27, 1985. [ web after the writing of the will, Nobel passed away (in 1896). Per his request, two young engineers, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, created the Nobel Peace Prize. They set up the Nobel Foundation as an organization to take care of the financial assets left by Nobel for this purpose and to coordinate the work of the Prize-Awarding Institutions. [ web Nine years later on December 10, 1905 (the anniversary of Nobel's death), the Nobel Peace Prize was ironically awarded to Bertha von Suttner. [ web It has been over 100 years since Alfred Bernhard Nobel died and the industry that he founded has gone though some dramatic changes.
People slowly began to realize the importance and significance of explosives, as far as industrial development goes. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries explosives were necessary for making cheaper coal, providing metallic ores in industry, and also in developing modern transport systems. [ web It is sad to say that the significance of explosives was never fully appreciated during Nobel's own life. Because of all the harassment he received from the media and from the people saying he was a war promoter, this is why his final testament contained a request for the Nobel Prizes. [ web One of the prizes, as stated in his testament, was to be named the "Nobel Peace Prize" and be given to 'the person who has done most and best work for the brotherhood of nations as well as for the establishment and spread of peace congresses. ' Perhaps Nobel's nickname, "The Merchant of Death", should have been changed to "The Merchant of Peace". [ web.