Alfred Nobel, 1833

On this day in 1833, dynamite inventor and creator of the Nobel Prizes, Alfred Nobel, was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Wondering why the inventor of dynamite would create a prestigious prize for peace? It helps to understand his motivations for inventing dynamite and instituting the Nobel Prizes.

Alfred Nobel

At first, Nobel’s family struggled financially. However, Nobel’s father received the opportunity to manufacture explosives in St. Petersburg, Russia. With this new income, his father was able to send Nobel to private tutors and he became educated in chemistry and fluent in six languages.

At age 18, Nobel studied chemistry in Paris, and he moved to the United States after that. During the Crimean War, Nobel found work at his family’s Russian factory, manufacturing equipment. However, after the war, the family went bankrupt. Nobel began studied and experimented with explosives, dedicating himself to the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerine.

On September 3, 1864, an explosion at the family’s Swedish plant killed five people including Emil, Nobel’s brother. Emil’s death provided the impetus for Nobel to invent and patent dynamite, a safer alternative to nitroglycerine.

In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died, and a newspaper accidentally posted Alfred Nobel’s obituary- entitled “The Merchant of Death is Dead”- which condemned his invention of dynamite. This insight into how he would be remembered inspired Nobel to change his legacy and use his immense fortune from his 350 plus patents to create the Nobel Prizes to award those who have bettered mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace.

Nobel Peace Prize


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