Alfred Nobel was born on the 21 October 1833, he first studied at the Technical Institute of St Petersburg, this is where he learnt about Ascanio Sobrero and his discovery – nitroglycerin. People all over the world were concerned about nitroglycerin because it was so unpredictable. There were numerous events where innocent people were accidently killed, In 1864 Alfred’s own brother Emil was accidently killed while experimenting with nitroglycerin. In 1869 England passed the nitroglycerin Act, which banned the explosive liquid, other countries such as France and Belgium soon followed. Alfred experimented with nitroglycerin – trying to make it less volatile, eventually he made a breakthrough, he mixed the explosive liquid with diatomaceous earth and they came together in putty, creating dynamite
Alfred and his brother Robert went on business trips to sell the new product. Dynamite was bought by the German government, assisting them with victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian War. Alfred opened a factory in Scotland, which at one point produced ten per cent of the world’s supply of dynamite. A factory was opened in Italy and Alfred appointed Ascanio Sobrero advisor. Alfred then travelled to America where he encountered problems. The Americans were worried that dynamite would destroy their gunpowder businesses, so they created their own versions, Atlas Powder being the most successful. Alfred left after vowing never to set foot in America again! Despite this setback dynamite was used all over the world, blasting tunnels, digging canals such as the Suez and the Panama Canal, it was used on Mount Rushmore, it demolished old buildings and dug foundations for new buildings.
In 1888 Alfred’s brother Robert died. Alfred was looking through the newspapers when he read a headline “The Merchant of Death is Dead” the journalist obviously mixed the brothers up, but Alfred was more concerned with the fact he’d be remembered for the negative side of his invention. When Alfred signed his will, he left $9 million to establish a foundation to annually award prizes to individuals who excelled in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and literature. Alfred died just over a year later. The first Nobel Prize awards were issued in 1901 and have carried on to this date!
Source – The War Scientists by Thomas J Craughwell
All pictures from nobelpeaceprize.org
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