Known for inventing dynamite and his peace prize.by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
How would you like to live in a time with wars, revolutions, and revolts going on all around you? This was what it was like for Alfred Bernhard Nobel. During the 1800’s, many wars, revolutions, and revolts took place including the Industrial Revolution, the Opium Wars, the Crimean War, the rise of the British Empire, and the scramble for Africa. Of all of these, Alfred’s family was most involved and affected by the Industrial Revolution and the Crimean War. During the Industrial Revolution, instead of growing crops on a farm to feed your family, you would go and work in a factory or a mine. “But this was hard and dangerous work. Men, women, and children worked twelve or more hours day, often for low wages. They were often killed or injured. “ The Crimean War lasted from 1854 to 1856. It was fought between Russia and an alliance of the United Kingdom, France, and the Ottoman Empire. “The majority of the conflict took place around the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea.”
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in 1833 on October 21 in Stockholm, Sweden.
He was a very weak baby who would have died had his mother not nursed him through
one crisis after another. His three older brothers went to school and got an
education while he lay in bed fighting off illnesses. His father was an engineer
and inventor. His job did not bring in a lot of money, so Alfred’s mother
ran a store and it brought in most of their money. He worked with a construction
crew and experimented with blasting rock. When his father’s business crashed
soon after Alfred was born, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. There
his father made naval mines for the Russian army during the Crimean War to stop
the British from bombarding St. Petersburg.
In St. Petersburg, Alfred had a first class private education. His lessons included natural science, languages, and literature. At age 17, he could speak Swedish, English, Russian, German, and French. Alfred’s favorite subjects were literature, chemistry, and physics. His father, though, did not like the fact his son was interested in literature. He wanted Alfred to follow in his footsteps, so Mr. Nobel sent Alfred abroad to study and become a chemist. After the Crimean War ended, Mr. Nobel’s war business went down. In 1863, the Nobels moved back to Sweden, leaving Alfred’s two elder brothers to try to save what remained of the business.
After moving back to Stockholm, Alfred started experimenting with nitroglycerine. Liquid nitroglycerine is dangerous because it has a tendency to explode when roughly handled. Alfred tried to make it safe. After several explosions, including the one in 1864 in which his younger brother and several other people were killed, the authorities were convinced that nitroglycerine was not safe to test inside the city. He was banned from experimenting with nitroglycerine inside the city limits, so he moved out onto a barge in the middle of Lake Mälaren. After several experiments, he finally found that if he mixed nitroglycerine with a fine powder called kieselguhr, the mixture, which he called dynamite, would be safe to handle. In 1867, he received a patent for dynamite. Suddenly, all around the world, the military and construction and mining companies were ordering large quantities of dynamite because of its relative safety and explosive power. Soon, Nobel had factories set up around the world and the factories were bringing in great sums of money. Other chemical research financed by his companies provided valuable information on preparation of artificial forms of rubber, leather, silk, and precious stones.
Towards the end of his days, Alfred decided that he wanted people to remember him and make a legacy of himself. He had no children and did not think that dynamite would be a proper remembrance. In 1891, he moved to San Remo, Italy where he wrote his will. In his will he “ordered that the estate be invested in ‘stable securities” such as interest bearing bonds, ‘the annual interest on which shall be awarded as prizes to those persons who, during the previous year, have rendered the greatest services to mankind.’“3 The prize money was divided into five sections: 1) physics, 2) chemistry, 3) physiology or medicine, 4) literature, and 5) the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded to “the person who has done the most or the best work for the brotherhood of the nations, the abolishment or reduction of standing armies, as well as for the establishment and spread of peace congresses. Every October, the awards are announced. On December 10, the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway. The other five prizes (economics was added in 1968) are given out the same day in Stockholm. The prizes are considered one of the highest honors anyone can achieve. By 1996 the money given with the prize exceeded one million dollars.” 3
Although Alfred made dynamite, which aided wars, he also believed that peace was important. By the time he died, he had 355 patents, including inventions in the fields of electrochemistry, optics, biology, and physiology. His reputation is for his prizes, but he became wealthy through his dynamite. Although his first objective was to invent, he contributed to many areas, including the Nobel Prizes for which he is most famous.
1Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work. The Nobel Foundation. 04 Oct. 2004
2Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work. The Nobel Foundation. 04 Oct. 2004
3Bankston, John. Alfred Nobel and the Story of the Nobel Prize. Delaware: Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2004.
4Dynamite. 04 Oct. 2004
5Gleasner, Diana C. Dynamite. New York: Walker and Company, 1982.
6Inventors and Inventions: N – EnchantedLearning.com. 18 Oct. 2004
7Johnston, Dileri, ed. The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. New York: Kingfisher, 1999.