Nobel, Alfred Bernhard

Nobel, Alfred Bernhard
b. 21 October 1833 Stockholm, Sweden
d. 10 December 1896 San Remo, Italy
Swedish industrialist, inventor of dynamite, founder of the Nobel Prizes.
Alfred's father, Immanuel Nobel, builder, industrialist and inventor, encouraged his sons to follow his example of inventiveness. Alfred's education was interrupted when the family moved to St Petersburg, but was continued privately and was followed by a period of travel. He thus acquired a good knowledge of chemistry and became an excellent linguist.
During the Crimean War, Nobel worked for his father's firm in supplying war materials. The cancellation of agreements with the Russian Government at the end of the war bankrupted the firm, but Alfred and his brother Immanuel continued their interest in explosives, working on improved methods of making nitroglycerine. In 1863 Nobel patented his first major invention, a detonator that introduced the principle of detonation by shock, by using a small charge of nitroglycerine in a metal cap with detonating or fulminating mercury. Two years later Nobel set up the world's first nitroglycerine factory in an isolated area outside Stockholm. This led to several other plants and improved methods for making and handling the explosive. Yet Nobel remained aware of the dangers of liquid nitroglycerine, and after many experiments he was able in 1867 to take out a patent for dynamite, a safe, solid and pliable form of nitroglycerine, mixed with kieselguhr. At last, nitroglycerine, discovered by Sobrero in 1847, had been transformed into a useful explosive; Nobel began to promote a worldwide industry for its manufacture. Dynamite still had disadvantages, and Nobel continued his researches until, in 1875, he achieved blasting gelatin, a colloidal solution of nitrocellulose (gun cotton) in nitroglycerine. In many ways it proved to be the ideal explosive, more powerful than nitroglycerine alone, less sensitive to shock and resistant to moisture. It was variously called Nobel's Extra Dynamite, blasting gelatin and gelignite. It immediately went into production.
Next, Nobel sought a smokeless powder for military purposes, and in 1887 he obtained a nearly smokeless blasting powder using nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose with 10 per cent camphor. Finally, a progressive, smokeless blasting powder was developed in 1896 at his San Remo laboratory.
Nobel's interests went beyond explosives into other areas, such as electrochemistry, optics and biology; his patents amounted to 355 in various countries. However, it was the manufacture of explosives that made him a multimillionaire. At his death he left over £2 million, which he willed to funding awards "to those who during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind".
1875, On Modern Blasting Agents, Glasgow (his only book).
Further Reading
H.Schuck et al., 1962, Nobel, the Man and His Prizes, Amsterdam.
E.Bergengren, 1962, Alfred Nobel, the Man and His Work, London and New York (includes a supplement on the prizes and the Nobel institution).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Nobel,Alfred Bernhard — No·bel (nō bĕlʹ), Alfred Bernhard. 1833 1896. Swedish chemist and engineer who invented dynamite (1866) and bequeathed his fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes. * * * …   Universalium

  • Nobel , Alfred Bernhard — (1833–1896) Swedish chemist, engineer, and inventor Nobel left Stockholm, where he was born, in 1842 to join his father, an engineer, who had moved to St. Petersburg. He was taught chemistry by his tutors and spoke fluently in English, French,… …   Scientists

  • Nobel, Alfred (Bernhard) — born Oct. 21, 1833, Stockholm, Swed. died Dec. 10, 1896, San Remo, Italy Swedish chemist, engineer, and industrialist. His attempts to find a safe way to handle nitroglycerin resulted in the invention of dynamite and the blasting cap. He built a… …   Universalium

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