Nobel Prize And Biography, Fun Facts, Gallery, Quotes of Alfred Nobel

Early Life and Family Background

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born into a family with a rich background in engineering and invention. His father, Immanuel Nobel, was an engineer, inventor, and industrialist known for his work on naval mines. His mother, Andriette Ahlsell Nobel, came from a well-off family, providing financial stability during Alfred's early years. He had three brothers: Robert (1829–1896), Ludvig (1831–1888), and Emil (1843–1864).

Portrait of Nobel in 1896 by Gösta Florman

In 1842, the family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, where Immanuel established a successful mechanical workshop. Alfred received a thorough education from private tutors, showing early aptitude for languages and science. By his late teens, he was fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English, and German.

Education and Early Interests

Alfred Nobel was educated by private tutors and showed an early interest in chemistry and physics. His father's work exposed him to engineering and technological advancements from a young age. In 1850, at the age of 17, Alfred went to Paris to continue his studies. There, he met Ascanio Sobrero, the inventor of nitroglycerin. This meeting sparked Nobel's lifelong fascination with explosives. He also spent time in the United States, working under the guidance of Swedish-American engineer John Ericsson, who designed the ironclad warship USS Monitor.

Struggles and Breakthrough in Explosives

After returning to Sweden in the mid-1850s, the Nobel family faced financial difficulties as Immanuel's business in Russia declined. Alfred and his brothers sought to stabilize the family's finances through various inventions and business ventures.

Nitroglycerin, discovered by Sobrero in 1847, was known for its powerful explosive properties but was extremely volatile and dangerous to handle. Several accidents occurred during Nobel's early experiments, including a tragic explosion in 1864 that killed his younger brother Emil and several others. This tragedy deeply affected Alfred, intensifying his resolve to find a safer way to use nitroglycerin.

In 1867, Alfred Nobel's breakthrough came when he discovered that mixing nitroglycerin with an absorbent substance like kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) created a stable, moldable compound. He named this invention "dynamite," derived from the Greek word "dynamis," meaning power. This invention revolutionized construction and demolition industries, making blasting operations safer and more efficient in mining, tunneling, and road building.

Establishing a Global Business Empire

The invention of dynamite brought Nobel immense wealth and international recognition. He established factories and laboratories in more than 20 countries, securing patents and expanding his business empire. Nobel's company, which eventually became known as Nobel Industries, played a significant role in the industrialization of Europe and beyond.

Despite his wealth, Nobel lived a relatively modest life, dedicating himself to his work and maintaining a small circle of close friends and intellectual correspondents. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail and relentless pursuit of innovation.

Other Inventions and Contributions

Alfred Nobel was a prolific inventor, holding 355 patents by the end of his life. Some of his notable inventions include:

Gelignite (Blasting Gelatin): Invented in 1875, this was a more powerful and stable explosive than dynamite, further enhancing safety and efficiency in blasting operations.
Ballistite: Developed in 1887, this smokeless propellant was used in firearms and artillery, representing a significant advancement in military technology.
Synthetic Rubber and Leather: Nobel also worked on creating synthetic materials, contributing to advancements in these fields.

Beyond explosives, Nobel had a keen interest in medical research and physiology. He invested in various medical experiments and innovations, reflecting his diverse scientific curiosity. His work in cardiovascular treatments and synthetic materials showcased his broad range of interests and talents.

Personal Life and Relationship

Alfred Nobel never married, and his personal life was marked by isolation and melancholy. He had few close relationships, although he corresponded with several notable intellectuals and writers of his time. One significant relationship was with Bertha von Suttner, an Austrian pacifist who later won the Nobel Peace Prize. Their correspondence influenced Nobel's views on peace and disarmament.

Despite his solitary nature, Nobel was known for his philanthropy and support of various scientific and cultural endeavors. He valued knowledge and intellectual pursuits, often funding research and development in fields beyond his own.

Quotes by Alfred Nobel

1. On Peace: "I would like to invent a substance or machine with such terrible power of mass destruction that war would thereby be made impossible forever."
2. On Life: "Hope is nature’s veil for hiding truth’s nakedness."
3. On Inventions: "If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied."
4. On Legacy: "My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions. As soon as men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace."

Fun Facts about Alfred Nobel

1. Prolific Inventor: Alfred Nobel held 355 patents during his lifetime, showcasing his diverse interests and inventive spirit.
2. Multilingual: Nobel was fluent in five languages: Swedish, Russian, French, English, and German.
3. Poetry and Drama: Despite his scientific achievements, Nobel had a passion for literature and wrote poetry and drama in his spare time. His literary works were not widely recognized during his life.
4. Bertha von Suttner: Nobel's friendship with Bertha von Suttner, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, deeply influenced his views on peace and disarmament.
5. Posthumous Will: The reading of Nobel’s will shocked his family and friends, as it left the majority of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes. The will was contested but eventually upheld.
6. Chemical Element: The chemical element with atomic number 102, nobelium (No), is named in his honor.
7. Discreet Philanthropist: Nobel was known to support various scientific and cultural endeavors discreetly, reflecting his philanthropic nature.
8. Premature Obituary: In 1888, a French newspaper published an obituary for Nobel, mistakenly thinking he had died. The obituary criticized him as the "merchant of death," which profoundly impacted him and influenced the establishment of the Nobel Prizes.

The Nobel Prizes

In 1888, Alfred Nobel was shocked to read an obituary mistakenly published for him after his brother Ludvig's death. The obituary condemned him as the "merchant of death" for his role in inventing explosives. This event profoundly affected Nobel and led him to reconsider his legacy.

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually, and the recipients, known as Laureates, receive a medal, a diploma, and a monetary award. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, while the other prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden.


In his will, Alfred Nobel bequeathed the majority of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes. The will stipulated that the prizes should be awarded to individuals who have conferred the greatest benefit to humanity in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. An economics prize, funded by the Swedish central bank, was later added in his memory. The Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901, five years after Nobel's death.

Categories and Selection Process

1. Physics: Awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
2. Chemistry: Awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
3. Physiology or Medicine: Awarded by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute.
4. Literature: Awarded by the Swedish Academy.
5. Peace: Awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, selected by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting).

In 1968, the Swedish central bank established the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The selection process for Nobel Prizes involves nominations from eligible individuals and organizations, thorough evaluations by committees of experts, and final decisions by the awarding institutions. The prizes are presented annually on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.

Impact and Significance

The Nobel Prizes are among the most prestigious awards in the world, celebrating outstanding contributions to humanity. They recognize groundbreaking research, literary achievements, and efforts toward peace. The prizes have played a significant role in highlighting and promoting scientific and cultural advancements, fostering international cooperation and understanding.


Alfred Nobel's life is a story of innovation, tragedy, and redemption. His inventions brought both great progress and significant ethical challenges, but his legacy, through the Nobel Prizes, remains a powerful force for global good. His dedication to science and the pursuit of knowledge continues to inspire generations of inventors, scientists, and scholars around the world. Through the Nobel Prizes, Alfred Nobel's vision for a better world endures, celebrating and encouraging the very best of human achievement.