Alfred Nobel
Overview
 
Alfred Bernhard Nobel (21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) was a Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite
Dynamite
Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth , or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued...

. Nobel also owned Bofors
Bofors
The name Bofors has been associated with the iron industry for more than 350 years.Located in Karlskoga, Sweden, the company originates from the hammer mill "Boofors" founded 1646. The modern corporate structure was created in 1873 with the foundation of Aktiebolaget Bofors-Gullspång...

, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments. Nobel held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous. In his last will, he used his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s.
Quotations

If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.

As quoted in The 12 best Questions To Ask Customers (2001), by Jim Meisenheimer, p. 26

My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions. As soon as men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace.

As quoted in The Military Quotation Book (2002) by James Charlton, p. 114

Encyclopedia
Alfred Bernhard Nobel (21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) was a Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite
Dynamite
Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth , or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued...

. Nobel also owned Bofors
Bofors
The name Bofors has been associated with the iron industry for more than 350 years.Located in Karlskoga, Sweden, the company originates from the hammer mill "Boofors" founded 1646. The modern corporate structure was created in 1873 with the foundation of Aktiebolaget Bofors-Gullspång...

, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments. Nobel held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous. In his last will, he used his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s. The synthetic element
Synthetic element
In chemistry, a synthetic element is a chemical element that is too unstable to occur naturally on Earth, and therefore has to be created artificially. So far 30 synthetic elements have been discovered—that is, synthesized...

 nobelium
Nobelium
Nobelium is a synthetic element with the symbol No and atomic number 102. It was first correctly identified in 1966 by scientists at the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions in Dubna, Soviet Union...

 was named after him. His name also survives in modern-day companies such as Dynamit Nobel and Akzo Nobel
Akzo Nobel
Akzo Nobel N.V., trading as AkzoNobel, is a Dutch multinational, active in the fields of decorative paints, performance coatings and specialty chemicals. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company has activities in more than 80 countries, and employs approximately 55,000 people. Sales in 2010 were EUR...

, which are descendents of the companies Nobel himself established.

Personal background

Alfred Nobel was the third son of Immanuel Nobel
Immanuel Nobel
'Immanuel Nobel' , the younger, was a Swedish engineer, architect, inventor and industrialist. He was the inventor of the rotary lathe used in plywood manufacturing. He was a member of the Nobel family and the father of Robert Nobel, Ludvig Nobel and Alfred Nobel...

 (1801–1872) and Andriette Ahlsell Nobel (1805–1889). Through his father he was a descendant of the famous Swedish scientist Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702). Born in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 on 21 October 1833, he went with his family to Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 in 1842, where his father (who had invented modern plywood
Plywood
Plywood is a type of manufactured timber made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. It is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can usually be locally manufactured...

) started a "torpedo
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

" works. Alfred studied chemistry with Professor Nikolai Nikolaevich Zinin. When Alfred was 18, he went to the United States to study chemistry for four years and worked for a short period under John Ericsson
John Ericsson
John Ericsson was a Swedish-American inventor and mechanical engineer, as was his brother Nils Ericson. He was born at Långbanshyttan in Värmland, Sweden, but primarily came to be active in England and the United States...

. who designed the American Civil War ironclad USS Monitor
USS Monitor
USS Monitor was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the United States Navy during the American Civil War. She is most famous for her participation in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862, the first-ever battle fought between two ironclads...

. In 1859, the factory was left to the care of the second son, Ludvig Nobel
Ludvig Nobel
Ludvig Immanuel Nobel was an engineer, a noted businessman and a humanitarian. One of the most prominent members of the Nobel family, he was the son of Immanuel Nobel and Alfred Nobel's older brother...

 (1831–1888), who greatly improved the business. 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 nitroglycerine (discovered in 1847 by Ascanio Sobrero, one of his fellow students under Théophile-Jules Pelouze
Théophile-Jules Pelouze
Théophile-Jules Pelouze was a French chemist. He was born at Valognes, and died in Paris....

 at the University of Turin
University of Turin
The University of Turin is a university in the city of Turin in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy...

). A big explosion occurred on the 3 September 1864 at their factory in Heleneborg
Heleneborg
Heleneborg is an estate on Södermalm, a part of the city of Stockholm, Sweden. It is opposite Långholmen island ....

 in Stockholm, killing five people. Among them was Alfred's younger brother Emil
Emil Oskar Nobel
Emil Nobel was a member of the Nobel family, the youngest son of Immanuel Nobel, the younger, and of his wife Caroline Andrietta Ahlsell. He was brother of Robert Nobel, Ludvig Nobel and Alfred Nobel. Emil died on 3 September 1864, the victim of an explosion while experimenting with...

.
Though Nobel remained unmarried, his biographers note that he had at least three loves. Nobel's first love was in Russia with a girl named Alexandra, who rejected his proposal. In 1876 Austro
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

-Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

n Countess Bertha Kinsky
Bertha von Suttner
Bertha Felicitas Sophie Freifrau von Suttner was an Austrian novelist, radical pacifist, and the first woman to be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.-Biography:Suttner was born in Prague, Bohemia, the daughter of an impoverished Austrian Field Marshal,...

 became Alfred Nobel's secretary. But after only a brief stay she left him to marry her previous lover, Baron Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner. Though her personal contact with Alfred Nobel had been brief, she corresponded with him until his death in 1896, and it is believed that she was a major influence in his decision to include a peace prize among those prizes provided in his will. Bertha von Suttner was awarded the 1905 Nobel Peace prize, 'for her sincere peace activities'.

Nobel's third and longest-lasting love was with a flower girl named Sofie Hess from Vienna. This liaison lasted for 18 years and in many of the exchanged letters, Nobel addressed his love as 'Madame Sofie Nobel'. After his death, according to his biographers – Evlanoff and Fluor, and Fant – Nobel's letters were locked within the Nobel Institute in Stockholm and became the best-kept secret of the time. They were released only in 1955, to be included with the biographical data of Nobel.

The foundations of the Nobel Prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth for its establishment. Since 1901, the prize has honored men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and for work in peace.

Sri Kantha has suggested that 'the one personal trait of Nobel that helped him to sharpen his creativity include his talent for information access, via his multi-lingual skills. Despite the lack of formal secondary and tertiary level education, Nobel gained proficiency in six languages: Swedish, French, Russian, English, German and Italian. He also developed literary skills to write poetry in English.' His Nemesis, a prose tragedy in four acts about Beatrice Cenci
Beatrice Cenci
Beatrice Cenci was an Italian noblewoman. She is famous as the protagonist in a lurid murder trial in Rome....

, partly inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

's The Cenci
The Cenci
The Cenci, A Tragedy, in Five Acts is a verse drama in five acts by Percy Bysshe Shelley written in the summer of 1819, and inspired by a real Italian family, the Cencis . Shelley composed the play at Rome and at Villa Valsovano near Livorno, from May to August 5, 1819...

, was printed while he was dying. The entire stock except for three copies was destroyed immediately after his death, being regarded as scandalous and blasphemous. The first surviving edition (bilingual Swedish–Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

) was published in Sweden in 2003. The play has been translated to Slovenian
Slovenian language
Slovene or Slovenian is a South Slavic language spoken by approximately 2.5 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. It is the first language of about 1.85 million people and is one of the 23 official and working languages of the European Union...

 via the Esperanto version and to French. In 2010 it was published in Russia as another bilingual (Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

–Esperanto) edition.

Nobel was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

 in 1884, the same institution that would later select laureates for two of the Nobel prizes, and he received an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University
Uppsala University
Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Scandinavia, founded in 1477. It consistently ranks among the best universities in Northern Europe in international rankings and is generally considered one of the most prestigious institutions of...

 in 1893.

Alfred Nobel is buried in Norra begravningsplatsen
Norra begravningsplatsen
Norra begravningsplatsen, literally "The Northern Cemetery" in Swedish, is a major cemetery of Metropolitan Stockholm. The cemetery is located in the municipality of Solna.Inaugurated on June 9, 1827, it is the burial site for a number of Swedish notables....

 in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

.

Inventions

Nobel found that when nitroglycerin was incorporated in an absorbent inert substance like kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth also known as diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 1 micrometre to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to...

) 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. In order to help reestablish his name and improve the image of his business from the earlier controversies associated with the dangerous explosives, Nobel had also considered naming the highly powerful substance "Nobel's Safety Powder", but settled with Dynamite instead, referring to the Greek word for 'power'.

Nobel later on combined nitroglycerin with various nitrocellulose compounds, similar to collodion, but settled on a more efficient recipe combining another nitrate explosive, and obtained a transparent, jelly-like substance, which was a more powerful explosive than dynamite. 'Gelignite', or blasting gelatin, as it was named, was patented in 1876; and was followed by a host of similar combinations, modified by the addition of potassium nitrate and various other substances. Gelignite was more stable, transportable and conveniently formed to fit into bored holes, like those used in drilling and mining, than the previously used compounds and was adopted as the standard technology for mining in the Age of Engineering bringing Nobel a great amount of financial success, though at a significant cost to his health. An off-shoot of this research resulted in Nobel's invention of ballistite
Ballistite
Ballistite is a smokeless propellant made from two high explosives, nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. It was developed and patented by Alfred Nobel in the late 19th century.-The development of smokeless powders:...

, the precursor of many modern smokeless powder explosives and still used as a rocket propellant.

The Prizes

In 1888 Alfred's brother Ludvig died while visiting Cannes
Cannes
Cannes is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a Commune of France in the Alpes-Maritimes department....

 and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred's obituary. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and is said to have brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death. The obituary stated ("The merchant of death is dead") and went on to say, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. On 27 November 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. He died of a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 on 10 December 1896 at Sanremo
Sanremo
Sanremo or San Remo is a city with about 57,000 inhabitants on the Mediterranean coast of western Liguria in north-western Italy. Founded in Roman times, the city is best known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. It hosts numerous cultural events, such as the Sanremo Music Festival...

, Italy. After taxes and bequests to individuals, Nobel's will gave 31,225,000 Swedish kronor (equivalent to about 1.8 billion kronor or 250 million US dollars in 2008) to fund the prizes.

The first three of these prizes are awarded for eminence in physical science
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

, in chemistry
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature,...

 and in medical science or physiology
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

; the fourth is for literary work "in an ideal direction" and the fifth prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 is to be given to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses. There is no prize awarded for mathematics, but see Abel Prize
Abel Prize
The Abel Prize is an international prize presented annually by the King of Norway to one or more outstanding mathematicians. The prize is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel . It has often been described as the "mathematician's Nobel prize" and is among the most prestigious...

.

The formulation for the literary prize being given for a work "in an ideal direction" ( in Swedish), is cryptic and has caused much confusion. For many years, the Swedish Academy interpreted "ideal" as "idealistic" () and used it as a reason not to give the prize to important but less Romantic authors, such as Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

 and Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

. This interpretation has since been revised, and the prize has been awarded to, for example, Dario Fo
Dario Fo
Dario Fo is an Italian satirist, playwright, theater director, actor and composer. His dramatic work employs comedic methods of the ancient Italian commedia dell'arte, a theatrical style popular with the working classes. He currently owns and operates a theatre company with his wife, actress...

 and José Saramago
José Saramago
José de Sousa Saramago, GColSE was a Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, poet, playwright and journalist. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor. Harold Bloom has described Saramago as "a...

, who do not belong to the camp of literary idealism.

There was room for interpretation by the bodies he had named for deciding on the physical sciences and chemistry prizes, given that he had not consulted them before making the will. In his one-page testament, he stipulated that the money go to discoveries or inventions in the physical sciences and to discoveries or improvements in chemistry. He had opened the door to technological awards, but had not left instructions on how to deal with the distinction between science and technology. Since the deciding bodies he had chosen were more concerned with the former, the prizes went to scientists and not to engineers, technicians or other inventors.

In 2001, Alfred Nobel's great-grandnephew, Peter Nobel (b. 1931), asked the Bank of Sweden to differentiate its award to economists given "in Alfred Nobel's memory" from the five other awards. This has caused much controversy whether the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is actually a "Nobel Prize" / "Peace Prize".

External links

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