Alfred Nobel

Swedish chemist, innovator, engineer, and inventor of dynamite.


Alfred Nobel (b. 21 October 1833, current age 39) is a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and the inventor of dynamite.

Personal background

Nobel was the third son of Immanuel Nobel (1801-1872) and Andriette Ahlsell Nobel (b. 1805). Born in Stockholm on 21 October 1833, he went with his family in 1842 to Saint Petersburg, where his father (who had invented modern plywood) started a “torpedo” works.

Alfred studied chemistry with Professor Nikolay Nikolaevich Zinin. In 1859, the factory was left to the care of the second son, Ludvig Nobel (1831-1888), who greatly enlarged it. Alfred, returning to Sweden with his father after the bankruptcy of their family business, devoted himself to the study of explosives, and especially to the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerin (discovered in 1847 by Ascanio Sobrero, one of his fellow students under Théophile-Jules Pelouze at the University of Torino). A large explosion occurred on 3 September 1864 at their factory in Heleneborg in Stockholm, killing five people, among them Alfred’s younger brother Emil.

Though he remains unmarried, Nobel’s first love was in Russia with a girl named Alexandra, who rejected his proposal.

Dynamite and Gelignite

Nobel found that when nitroglycerin was incorporated in an absorbent inert substance like kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) it became safer and more convenient to handle, and this mixture he patented in 1867 as ‘dynamite’. Nobel demonstrated his explosive for the first time that year, at a quarry in Redhill, Surrey, England.

Nobel later combined nitroglycerin with another explosive, gun-cotton, and obtained a transparent, jelly-like substance, which was a more powerful explosive than dynamite. ‘Gelignite’, or blasting gelatin, as it was named, is currently patent pending; Noble is hard at work on a host of similar combinations, modified by the addition of potassium nitrate and various other substances.

Alfred Nobel

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