Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a chemist, inventor, engineer, prominent businessman, and philanthropist of Swedish origin. He was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. Nobel died in San Remo, Italy on December 10, 1866, at the age of 63 years. In his lifetime, Alfred acquired 355 patents for various inventions, the most famous being dynamite. Besides these inventions, he was very wealthy as he owned several manufacturing companies in many parts of the world. Among them is Bofors AB, an arms manufacturing company in Sweden which he owned from 1894 until his death. Nobel is the benefactor of the Nobel Prizes.
Alfred Nobel was born as the third son in a family of eight children. His father was Immanuel Nobel, an engineer, inventor, and alumnus of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. His family was very poor, and as a result, four of Alfred’s siblings died in childhood. Nobel gained interest in engineering, especially explosives, at a tender age and his father taught him most of the basic principles. He never attended any formal school as a young child.
In 1837, Alfred’s father moved to Russia where he started manufacturing explosives and machine tools. His business became prosperous, and he relocated his wife and children to St. Petersburg in 1942. Nobel’s parents sent him to private tutors now that the family was wealthy. He was a brilliant student and excelled in chemistry and languages. Alfred mastered five languages by the age of 17 years old, including French, Russian, English, and German. In 1850, Nobel left Russia for Paris to pursue his interest in chemistry.
In Paris, Nobel met Ascanio Sobrero, the inventor of nitroglycerin. He became interested in inventing ways to control nitroglycerin and use it as a commercial explosive. One year later, he left Paris for America to continue the study of chemistry. Nobel got his first English patent for a gas meter in 1857. He acquired his first Swedish patent which outlined how to prepare gunpowder in 1863, and in the same year, he invented the detonator. Some of his other inventions include the blasting cap which he designed in 1865, dynamite in 1867, gelignite in 1875, and Ballistite in 1887.
During the time of his inventions, Nobel established many explosives manufacturing companies, and by the time of his demise, his business had built more than 90 armament industries. He also invested in oil exploitation along with his two brothers, Robert and Ludvig Nobel. Apart from his many discoveries, Alfred also wrote English prose and poetry. One of his literary works is a play called Nemesis.
Death and Legacy
Nobel moved to San Remo, Italy in 1891 after he was accused of treason against France following his sale of Ballistite to Italy. He lived in Italy until he succumbed to cardiac arrest in 1896. He was never married and did not have children.
Before his death, Nobel gave 94% of his entire estate which was worth 31,225,000 Swedish kronor to the Swedish-Norwegian Club for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes. These awards were to be held annually, to recognize outstanding persons in the fields of science, service to humanity, and literary work from across the world. As of 2012, Nobel’s capital to the institution was worth approximately $472 million.
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