Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833. His father, Immanuel Nobel, was an engineer. He built bridges and buildings in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. At work, Immanuel Nobel had a lot of problems with big rocks. It was hard to get rid of them. He wanted to find a way to blast rocks.

Alfred’s mother, Andrietta, came from a wealthy family. the same year Alfred Nobel was born ,Immanuel Nobel lost all his money. He was forced into bankruptcy. In 1837, Immanuel Nobel left Stockholm and his family. He wanted to start a new career in Finland and in Russia. To support the family, Andrietta Nobel started a grocery store. She did not get a lot of money.

At the same time Immanuel Nobel was successful in his new work in St. Petersburg, Russia. He started a workshop. He made tools and machines for the Russian army. He also convinced the generals that mines could be used to stop enemy naval ships from attacking the city. The British ships could not come near the city of St. Petersburg. Immanuel Nobel was also a clever man. He made some arms and steam engines.

He made a lot of money from his new business. Immanuel Nobel was able, in 1842, to bring his family to St. Petersburg. There, his sons were given a first class education by private teachers. The children learned natural sciences, languages and literature. By the age of 17, Alfred Nobel was fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. He was interested in English literature and poetry as well as in chemistry and physics.

Alfred’s father, who wanted his sons to become engineers, disliked Alfred’s interest in poetry. He saw that his son was rather shy. His father sent him abroad for further training in chemical engineering. Alfred traveled to Italy, Germany and the U.S.

In Paris he met a young Italian chemist who had invented a highly explosive liquid. It was too dangerous to use. It had more power than gun powder. Alfred Nobel became very interested in it and wanted to use it in a different way. He wanted to use it in blasting rocks.
First he wanted to make it safe to use. He wanted to protect the lives of the people who would use it in the future.

In 1852 Alfred Nobel was asked to come back and work in the family business. At that time the Russian army wanted more deliveries. When the war ended and conditions changed, Immanuel Nobel lost all his money. Immanuel and two of his sons, Alfred and Emil, left St. Petersburg together and returned to Stockholm. His other two sons, Robert and Ludvig, remained in St. Petersburg. It was very difficult for them but they managed to start the family business. Then they went on to work in the oil industry in south Russia. They were very successful and became very rich.

After his return to Sweden in 1863, Alfred Nobel worked with explosives. He conducted several big explosions. His brother Emil died in one of these explosions in 1864. The government banned the use of explosives within the city of Stockholm because they were too dangerous. Alfred did his experiments far away from Stockholm. In 1864 he started producing explosives in larger amounts.

To make the use of his explosives safer, Alfred Nobel tried to add many things. He used something called silica. He could make a paste from the explosive liquid. This paste is what we now call dynamite. Workers could use this new invention safely to blast rocks. More and more companies wanted to buy dynamite to build roads and houses. It reduced the cost of hiring many people. Alfred Nobel was a very successful businessman. He had a lot of money when he was 40 years old. He also had more than 90 factories in 20 different countries.

Although he lived in Paris much of his life, he was always traveling. He focused on the development of explosives technology as well as other chemical inventions, including such materials as synthetic rubber, leather and silk. By the time of his death in 1896 he had 355 new inventions. Alfred Nobel had the mind of an inventor and the heart of a poet. He was interested in making peace. He offered to give a lot of money to help humans. In 1895 Nobel wrote his will, leaving most of his fortune to a foundation to promote work in Peace, Medicine, Biology and chemistry.

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