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Alfred Nobel

Alfred NobelAlfred Nobel Alfred Nobel (1833–96) was a Swedish chemist and the inventor of dynamite and gelignite. After discovering ways of producing safer explosives, Nobel established factories to manufacture explosives in the 1870s and 1880s. These businesses made a fortune for Nobel. In 1895 he set aside most of it to establish annual prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. An Economics Prize was added later. Called the Nobel Prize, they are the most prestigious prizes in science.

Nobel with cases of dynamiteNobel with cases of dynamite


Nobel was interested in the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerine, a highly unstable explosive. In 1863, he invented a method of exploding from a distance using a detonator. But serious accidents continued to happen—including one in which his younger brother, Emil, was killed in 1864.

Determined to find a solution, Nobel found that mixing nitroglycerine with silica (silicon dioxide) made it safer and easier to manipulate. He patented this mixture in 1867 under the name of dynamite.

Alfred Nobel became concerned how he would be remembered when in 1888 he read "his" obituary—one published mistakenly on the death of his brother Ludvig—which condemned him as "the merchant of death". This may have prompted him to set aside much of his wealth to establish the Nobel Prize after his death.

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