Alfred Nobel (21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) is perhaps the most known Swedish in the world. He is largely depicted as a lonely millionaire who, despite his enormous wealth was unhappy, deeply melancholic and left some heart touching love stories behind him.
Alfred Nobel was born in a family of engineers in 1833 in Stockholm. His father Immanuel Nobel moved to St. Petersburg when he was 5 year old and started a mechanical workshop of landmines out there. He did not attend school and was instead educated at home by outstanding teachers, thanks to wealth gathered by his father in his business of landmines workshop. Alfred completed his education as a Chemist.
He had started working with Théophile-Jules Pelouze at the University of Turin and another coworker Ascanio Sobrero in 1847 synthesized Nitroglycerine which was the first practical explosive stronger than the black Powder. Ascanio called it Pyroglycerine and warned that it cannot be handled for, it is very explosive.
Alfred was extremely interested in the explosives and it was his family interest. Meanwhile the Crimean war ended (1856) and end of this war brought financial difficulties for Alfred’s family which was living on the manufacturing of the war material, so eventually his father’s manufacturing unit went bankrupt and they returned to Sweden.
A few years later Nitroglycerine was reminded to Alfred. The problem was the Nitroglycerine was not easy to handle and was dangerous liquid explosive. Alfred experimented for safer handling of the Nitroglycerine and these experiments led to some explosions which claimed life of his younger brother and some workers.
His dangerous experiments led him to develop the liquid combination of nitroglycerin and gunpowder and he called him as “Blasting Oil”. In 1863 he got patent for this “Blasting Oil” and sold it, but later Nitroglycerine was banned. Later, using Diatom earth (Diatomite) which is an excellent absorbent, he developed “Dynamite”. The term Dynamite derived from a Greek term “Dynamis” which means Power.
The term Dynamite was also coined by him
He got first patent in 1868 for Dynamite and this discovery led his father to win Letterstedt Award by the Royal Swedish Academy, which was awarded for discoveries of practical used to humanity.
Alfred owned Bofors’ company from 1894 until his death in December 1896.
Death of his brother in 1888 was a turning point, when a French newspaper by mistake published Alfred’s obituary titled as “The merchant of death is dead” and description as “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
This led him to write his will, (though he wrote many times) in which he gave away his fortune for the Awards.