Alfred Nobel was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. His father was an engineer and a businessman that had worked on constructing buildings as well as demolitions. In 1837, his father's business went bankrupt and he decided to move to St. Petersburg, Russia, leaving his wife and family behind.
In Russia, Alfred's father succeeded in creating a naval mine business that would prevent enemy ships from getting near the Russian city. The Russian Tsar financed the business and eventually Alfred and the family were able to join their father in St. Petersburg in 1842. There, Alfred and his three brothers were given private tutors to ensure that they received a proper education. By the age of seventeen, he was fluent in five different languages.
Although Nobel was interested in literature and poetry, his father did not like the arts and wanted his son to become an engineer. Alfred was sent to Paris, where he secured a position working as an assistant to T.J. Pelouze. Pelouze was a famous chemist and taught Alfred a great deal about chemistry.
Alfred's primary research revolved around nitroglycerine. It had been invented by Ascanio Sobrero, but was very unstable and unsafe to carry. Alfred was determined to find a way to manufacture it safely and also make it safe for demolitions experts to use for mining and other purposes.
In 1863, Alfred learned that his father's business in Russia had failed and the family had returned to Sweden. He decided to join them and work with his father on the problem of nitroglycerine. They set up a laboratory in Stockholm to conduct experiments, but several explosions resulted, including one that killed his younger brother Emil. After the incident, the city banned experiments involving explosives.
Forced to find another place to work, Alfred purchased a large barge to work on in the middle of Lake Malaren. By 1864, he had developed a safe and economic way to mass manufacture nitroglycerine, but continued trying different additives to find safer mediums for the explosive. In 1866, he finally had a breakthrough when he mixed nitroglycerine with a fine sand to make a paste. The paste could be molded into rods and became known as dynamite.
The invention of dynamite made Albert a fortune and he opened factories all over Europe. He lived for the most part in Paris, but moved around to visit his factories, which were located in twenty different countries. Towards the end of his life, he began experimenting with synthetic rubber and artificial silk.
On November 27, 1895, Alfred decided to create a will that would establish a prize to be awarded to people making notable achievements in science. That award became known as the Nobel Prize and continues to be awarded today. The first ceremony took place in Stockholm in 1901 (after his death).
On December 10, 1896, Alfred Nobel suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in Italy. At the time of his death, he owned 355 different patents.