Image of a photo of Alfred Bernhard Nobel
Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Famous Swedes - Alfred Bernhard Nobel

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm on the 21 October 1833 and passed away (due to a stroke) in Sanremo, Italy at the age of 63 on the 10 December 1896. His body was returned to Stockholm.

Although Alfred was the fourth of eight children between his father (an inventor and engineer, also descendent of the Swedish scientist Olaus Rudbeck who lived from 1630–1702) and mother, only half of them survived past adulthood.

Four years after Alfred’s birth, Alfred’s father moved to St Petersburg to manufacture explosives and soon he became successful in his industrial and business ventures;which enabled him to move his family to live with him in 1842. There his sons received high quality private teaching.

Alfred’s interest in poetry and perceived introverted nature led his father on deciding to send his 18 year old son abroad to Europe and North America. However throughout Alfred’s life he is known to have written poetry and dramatic literature as his interest did not cease in that field.

While working in Paris in a laboratory, Alfred met Ascanio Sobrero (a young Italian chemist) who invented nitroglycerine (a highly explosive liquid). This interested Alfred and spurred his later invention of dynamite.

In the year of 1852, Alfred was requested to return (after a five year absence) to the family business which was thriving while it provided for the Russian Army. There in St Petersburg, Alfred worked with his father to develop nitroglycerine to be exploded in a more controlled manner. It was after the Crimean War that the family business went bankrupt, while the father, Alfred and one other brother left to return to Stockholm in 1863. Two brothers remained and became some of the most affluent men of the period by venturing into the oil industry.

Developing and experimenting with nitroglycerine became a focus for Alfred, yet a year later after their return to his birth city;several people (including Alfred’s younger brother) had a fatal ending while experimenting with the explosions. The authorities became concerned and forbade further experimentation with this explosive substance within city limits and that sent Alfred to open an experimental place on a barge anchored on the Mälaren Lake. To make things safer additives were added and soon in 1867 dynamite (made by mixing nitroglycerine and an absorbent substance) was patented by Alfred. Although he was involved in weapons and explosives, Alfred did care about peace.

Alfred was responsible for starting up factories and laboratories in over 20 countries. Although he spent most of his life in Paris, Alfred travelled a great deal and at the time of his death he had claim to 355 patents. There is no record of Alfred ever being married or having children.

The world renowned Nobel Peace Prize stems from Alfred’s will which stated that he wanted a prize given to any person or organisation which promoted peace or made achievements in physics, medicine, chemistry, physiology or literature. Relatives did dispute and raise objection, while other international authorities queried about Alfred’s assets being spent on the prizes.

The following are some companies that still exist prominently today that were begun by Alfred, namely Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Great Britain;Société Centrale de Dynamite, France;and Dyno Industries in Norway.