Alfred Nobel

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Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel3.jpg
Alfred Nobel
Born
Alfred Bernhard Nobel

(1833-10-21)21 October 1833
Died10 December 1896(1896-12-10) (aged 63)
Resting place Norra begravningsplatsen, Stockholm, Sweden
59°21′24.52″N18°1′9.43″E / 59.3568111°N 18.0192861°E / 59.3568111; 18.0192861
OccupationChemist, engineer, inventor, businessman, philanthropist
Known forBenefactor of the Nobel Prize, inventor of dynamite
Signature
Alfred Nobel Signature.svg

Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( /nˈbɛl/ noh-BEL, Swedish:  [¹alfrɛd nʊ¹bɛlː] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 21 October 1833 – 10 December 1896) was a Swedish businessman, chemist, engineer, inventor, and philanthropist.

Contents

Nobel held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous. The synthetic element nobelium was named after him. [1]

Nobelium Chemical element with atomic number 102

Nobelium is a synthetic chemical element with the symbol No and atomic number 102. It is named in honor of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and benefactor of science. A radioactive metal, it is the tenth transuranic element and is the penultimate member of the actinide series. Like all elements with atomic number over 100, nobelium can only be produced in particle accelerators by bombarding lighter elements with charged particles. A total of twelve nobelium isotopes are known to exist; the most stable is 259No with a half-life of 58 minutes, but the shorter-lived 255No is most commonly used in chemistry because it can be produced on a larger scale.

Known for inventing dynamite, Nobel also owned Bofors, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments.

Dynamite Explosive made using nitroglycerin

Dynamite is an explosive made of nitroglycerin, sorbents and stabilizers. It was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in Geesthacht and patented in 1867. It rapidly gained wide-scale use as a more powerful alternative to black powder.

Bofors company

Bofors AB is a Swedish and British arms manufacturer. The name has been associated with the iron industry and artillery manufacturing for more than 350 years.

After reading a premature obituary which condemned him for profiting from the sales of arms, he bequeathed his fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes. [2] [3] His name also survives in modern-day companies such as Dynamit Nobel and AkzoNobel, which are descendants of mergers with companies Nobel himself established.

Nobel Prize Set of five annual international awards, primarily established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist Alfred Nobel established the five Nobel prizes in 1895. The prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine were first awarded in 1901. The prizes are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards available in their respective fields.

Dynamit Nobel AG is a German chemical and weapons company whose headquarters is in Troisdorf, Germany. It was founded in 1865 by Alfred Nobel.

Akzo Nobel N.V., trading as AkzoNobel, is a Dutch multinational company which creates paints and performance coatings for both industry and consumers worldwide. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company has activities in more than 80 countries, and employs approximately 46,000 people. Sales in 2016 were EUR 14.2 billion. Following the acquisition of ICI, the company restructured on 2 January 2008, and rebranded itself on 25 April of the same year.

Life and career

Alfred Nobel at a young age in the 1850s Alfred Nobel young.jpg
Alfred Nobel at a young age in the 1850s

Born in Stockholm, Alfred Nobel was the third son of Immanuel Nobel (1801–1872), an inventor and engineer, and Carolina Andriette (Ahlsell) Nobel (1805–1889). [4] The couple married in 1827 and had eight children. The family was impoverished, and only Alfred and his three brothers survived past childhood. [4] [5] Through his father, Alfred Nobel was a descendant of the Swedish scientist Olaus Rudbeck (1630–1702), [6] and in his turn the boy was interested in engineering, particularly explosives, learning the basic principles from his father at a young age. Alfred Nobel's interest in technology was inherited from his father, an alumnus of Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. [7]

Stockholm Capital of Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 965,232 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.6 million in the urban area, and 2.4 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Outside the city to the east, and along the coast, is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the county seat of Stockholm County.

Immanuel Nobel Swedish architect, engineer, inventor and industrialist

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. He also often experimented with nitroglycerin with his sons, which led to his son Emil Oskar Nobel's death because of an explosion at his father's factory Heleneborg in Stockholm in 1864.

Olaus Rudbeck Swedish architect

Olaus Rudbeck was a Swedish scientist and writer, professor of medicine at Uppsala University and for several periods rector magnificus of the same university. He was born in Västerås, the son of Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius, who was personal chaplain to King Gustavus Adolphus, and the father of botanist Olof Rudbeck the Younger. Rudbeck is primarily known for his contributions in two fields: human anatomy and linguistics, but he was also accomplished in many other fields including music and botany. He established the first botanical garden in Sweden at Uppsala, called Rudbeck's Garden, but which was renamed a hundred years later for his son's student, the botanist Carl Linnaeus.

Following various business failures, Nobel's father moved to Saint Petersburg in 1837 and grew successful there as a manufacturer of machine tools and explosives. He invented veneer lathe and started work on the torpedo. [8] In 1842, the family joined him in the city. Now prosperous, his parents were able to send Nobel to private tutors and the boy excelled in his studies, particularly in chemistry and languages, achieving fluency in English, French, German and Russian. [4] For 18 months, from 1841 to 1842, Nobel went to the only school he ever attended as a child, the Jacobs Apologistic School in Stockholm. [5]

Saint Petersburg Federal city in the Northwestern federal district, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.

Naval mine Explosive weapon for use in seas and waterways, triggered by the targets approach

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or 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, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create "safe" zones.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

As a young man, Nobel studied with chemist Nikolai Zinin; then, in 1850, went to Paris to further the work. There he met Ascanio Sobrero, who had invented nitroglycerin three years before. Sobrero strongly opposed the use of nitroglycerin, as it was unpredictable, exploding when subjected to heat or pressure. But Nobel became interested in finding a way to control and use nitroglycerin as a commercially usable explosive, as it had much more power than gunpowder. At age 18, he went to the United States for one year to study, [9] working for a short period under Swedish-American inventor John Ericsson, who designed the American Civil War ironclad USS Monitor . Nobel filed his first patent, an English patent for a gas meter, in 1857, while his first Swedish patent, which he received in 1863, was on 'ways to prepare gunpowder'. [5] [10] [4] [11]

The family factory produced armaments for the Crimean War (1853–1856), but had difficulty switching back to regular domestic production when the fighting ended and they filed for bankruptcy. [4] In 1859, Nobel's father left his factory in the care of the second son, Ludvig Nobel (1831–1888), who greatly improved the business. Nobel and his parents returned to Sweden from Russia and Nobel devoted himself to the study of explosives, and especially to the safe manufacture and use of nitroglycerin. Nobel invented a detonator in 1863, and in 1865 designed the blasting cap. [4]

On 3 September 1864, a shed used for preparation of nitroglycerin exploded at the factory in Heleneborg, Stockholm, killing five people, including Nobel's younger brother Emil. [5] Dogged and unfazed by more minor accidents, Nobel went on to build further factories, focusing on improving the stability of the explosives he was developing. [5] Nobel invented dynamite in 1867, a substance easier and safer to handle than the more unstable nitroglycerin. Dynamite was patented in the US and the UK and was used extensively in mining and the building of transport networks internationally. [4] In 1875 Nobel invented gelignite, more stable and powerful than dynamite, and in 1887 patented ballistite, a predecessor of cordite. [4]

Nobel was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 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 in 1893.

Alfred Nobel's death mask, at Bjorkborn, Nobel's residence in Karlskoga, Sweden Nobel's death mask.jpg
Alfred Nobel's death mask, at Bjorkborn, Nobel's residence in Karlskoga, Sweden

Nobel's brothers Ludvig and Robert exploited oilfields along the Caspian Sea and became hugely rich in their own right. Nobel invested in these and amassed great wealth through the development of these new oil regions. During his life Nobel was issued 355 patents internationally and by his death his business had established more than 90 armaments factories, despite his apparently pacifist character. [4] [12]

In 1888, the death of his brother Ludvig caused several newspapers to publish obituaries of Alfred in error. One French newspaper published an obituary titled "Le marchand de la mort est mort" ("The merchant of death is dead"). Nobel read the obituary and was appalled at the idea that he would be remembered in this way. His decision to posthumously donate the majority of his wealth to found the Nobel Prize has been credited at least in part to him wanting to leave behind a better legacy. [13] [4]

Inventions

Portrait of Nobel by Gosta Florman (1831-1900) AlfredNobel adjusted.jpg
Portrait of Nobel by Gösta Florman (1831–1900)

Nobel found that when nitroglycerin was incorporated in an absorbent inert substance like kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) it became safer and more convenient to handle, and this mixture he patented in 1867 as "dynamite". [14] 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" (δύναμις).

Nobel later 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 gelatine, 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. [14] 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 offshoot of this research resulted in Nobel's invention of ballistite, the precursor of many modern smokeless powder explosives and still used as a rocket propellant.

Nobel Prizes

Front side of one of the Nobel Prize medals Nobel Prize.png
Front side of one of the Nobel Prize medals

In 1888 Alfred's brother Ludvig died while visiting Cannes and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred's obituary. [4] 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. [4] [15] The obituary stated, Le marchand de la mort est mort ("The merchant of death is dead") [4] and went on to say, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." [16] Alfred (who never had a wife or children) was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. [17]

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 Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. [14] After taxes and bequests to individuals, Nobel's will allocated 94% of his total assets, 31,225,000 Swedish kronor, to establish the five Nobel Prizes. This converted to £1,687,837 (GBP) at the time. [18] [19] [20] [21] In 2012, the capital was worth around SEK 3.1 billion (US$472 million, EUR 337 million), which is almost twice the amount of the initial capital, taking inflation into account. [19]

The first three of these prizes are awarded for eminence in physical science, in chemistry and in medical science or physiology; the fourth is for literary work "in an ideal direction" and the fifth prize 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. [14]

The formulation for the literary prize being given for a work "in an ideal direction" (i idealisk riktning in Swedish), is cryptic and has caused much confusion. For many years, the Swedish Academy interpreted "ideal" as "idealistic" (idealistisk) and used it as a reason not to give the prize to important but less romantic authors, such as Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy. This interpretation has since been revised, and the prize has been awarded to, for example, Dario Fo and José Saramago, who do not belong to the camp of literary idealism.[ citation needed ]

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 more often than engineers, technicians or other inventors.[ citation needed ]

In 2001, Alfred Nobel's great-great-nephew, 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 request added to the controversy over whether the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is actually a legitimate "Nobel Prize". [22]

Death

Accused of “high treason against France” for selling Ballistite to Italy, Nobel moved from Paris to Sanremo, Italy in 1891. [23] [24] On December 10, 1896, Alfred Nobel succumbed to a lingering heart ailment, suffered a stroke, and died. [24] Unbeknownst to his family, friends or colleagues, he had left most of his wealth in trust, in order to fund the awards that would become known as the Nobel Prizes. [4] He is buried in Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

Personal life

Through baptism and confirmation Nobel was Lutheran and during his Paris years he regularly attended the Church of Sweden Abroad, led by pastor Nathan Söderblom, who himself received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930. [25] [26] He became an agnostic in youth and was an atheist later in life. [27] [28] [29]

Nobel travelled for much of his business life, maintaining companies in various countries in Europe and North America and keeping a permanent home in Paris from 1873 to 1891. [5] He remained a solitary character, given to periods of depression. [4] [30] 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-Bohemian Countess Bertha Kinsky 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. As Baroness Bertha von Suttner she was awarded the 1905 Nobel Peace prize, 'for her sincere peace activities'. [31]

Nobel's third and longest-lasting relationship was with Sofie Hess from Vienna, whom he met in 1876. [5] The liaison lasted for 18 years. [5] After his death, according to his biographers Evlanoff, Fluor and Fant, Nobel's letters were locked within the Nobel Institute in Stockholm. They were released only in 1955, to be included with other biographical data. [32]

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 sufficient literary skill to write poetry in English. His Nemesis , a prose tragedy in four acts about Beatrice Cenci, partly inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Cenci , 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) was published in Sweden in 2003. The play has been translated into Slovenian via the Esperanto version and into French. [33]

Monuments

The Monument to Alfred Nobel (Russian : Памятник Альфреду Нобелю, 59°57′39″N30°20′06″E / 59.960787°N 30.334905°E / 59.960787; 30.334905 ) in Saint Petersburg is located along the Bolshaya Nevka River on Petrogradskaya Embankment. It was dedicated in 1991 to mark the 90th anniversary of the first Nobel Prize presentation. Diplomat Thomas Bertelman and Professor Arkady Melua initiators of creation of the monument (1989). Professor A. Melua has provided funds for the establishment of the monument (J.S.Co. "Humanistica", 1990–1991). The abstract metal sculpture was designed by local artists Sergey Alipov and Pavel Shevchenko, and appears to be an explosion or branches of a tree. [34] Petrogradskaya Embankment is the street where the Nobel's family lived until 1859. [35]

Criticism

Criticism of Nobel focuses on his leading role in weapons manufacturing and sales, and some question his motives in creating his prizes, suggesting they are intended to improve his reputation. [36]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nitroglycerin chemical compound

Nitroglycerin (NG), also known as nitroglycerine, trinitroglycerin (TNG), nitro, glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), or 1,2,3-trinitroxypropane, is a dense, colorless, oily, explosive liquid most commonly produced by nitrating glycerol with white fuming nitric acid under conditions appropriate to the formation of the nitric acid ester. Chemically, the substance is an organic nitrate compound rather than a nitro compound, yet the traditional name is often retained. Invented in 1847, nitroglycerin has been used as an active ingredient in the manufacture of explosives, mostly dynamite, and as such it is employed in the construction, demolition, and mining industries. Since the 1880s, it has been used by the military as an active ingredient, and a gelatinizer for nitrocellulose, in some solid propellants, such as cordite and ballistite.

Nobel Prize in Physics One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Gelignite Explosive material

Gelignite, also known as blasting gelatin or simply jelly, is an explosive material consisting of collodion-cotton dissolved in either nitroglycerine or nitroglycol and mixed with wood pulp and saltpetre.

Ascanio Sobrero Italian chemist

Ascanio Sobrero was an Italian chemist, born in Casale Monferrato. He was studying under Théophile-Jules Pelouze at the University of Turin, who had worked with the explosive material guncotton.

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.

Ludvig Nobel businessman, humanitarian

Ludvig Immanuel Nobel was a Swedish-Russian 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 the older brother of Alfred Nobel. With his brother Robert, he operated Branobel, an oil company in Baku, Azerbaijan which at one point produced 50% of the world's oil. He is credited with creating the Russian oil industry. Ludvig Nobel built the largest fortune of any of the Nobel brothers and was one of the world's richest men. Following the Bolshevik revolution, the communists confiscated the Nobel family's vast fortune in Russia.

Nobel Foundation private institution managing the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Foundation is a private institution founded on 29 June 1900 to manage the finances and administration of the Nobel Prizes. The Foundation is based on the last will of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.

Nobel family prominent Swedish and Russian family closely related to the history both of Sweden and of Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries

The Nobel family is a prominent Swedish and Russian family closely related to the history both of Sweden and of Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its legacy includes its outstanding contributions to philanthropy and to the development of the armament industry and of the oil industry. Some of its foremost members are Immanuel Nobel, the younger, engineer developer of underwater naval mines and inventor of the rotary lathe used to produce plywood, Ludvig Nobel, the founder of Branobel and one of the richest and most important men in Russia at his time, and Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite who left the major part of his estate to the creation of the Nobel Prizes.

Gyttorp Place in Västmanland, Sweden

Gyttorp is a locality situated in Nora Municipality, Örebro County, Sweden with 661 inhabitants in 2010. Today it is mainly known for its explosive factory and Ralph Erskine's typical town houses. It is situated by lake Vikern.

Ragnar Sohlman Swedish chemical engineer, manager, civil servant

Ragnar Sohlman was a Swedish chemical engineer, manager, civil servant, and creator of the Nobel Foundation.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

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, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Nobel Peace Prize One of five Nobel Prizes established by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. Since March 1901, it has been awarded annually to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".

Michael Nobel Swedish scientist

Michael Nobel is a Swedish entrepreneur of Russian origin. He is a member of the Nobel family, a descendant of Ludvig Nobel, a former head of the Nobel Family Society (1995–2006), a co-founder and former Chairman of the Nobel Charitable Trust. At present, Nobel serves on several international boards that focus on scientific, medical and charitable initiatives. He promotes energy efficiency and alternative energy technology.

Arkady Melua philosopher

Arkady Ivanovich Melua is the general director and editor-in-chief of the scientific publishing house, Humanistica.

Vinterviken body of water in Aspudden, southern Stockholm, Sweden

Vinterviken ("Winter-cove") is a bay in the Mälaren lake in southern Stockholm, Sweden. Vinterviken is located in a valley surrounded by the Gröndal and Aspudden suburb areas. The origin of the name Vinterviken can be traced back to the 17th century. Back then a common winter route used to go from Fittja and the Mälaren islands, and entered the city through Vinterviken and lake Trehörningen.

References

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Further reading