Alfred Nobel (1833 - 1896)

1. The first Nobel prizes were awarded in 1901 to carry out the final wishes of the Swedish chemist and inventor Alfred Nobel, who wanted to recognize people whose work conferred “the greatest benefit on mankind”. The annual awards in the sciences, literature and the promotion of the international peace are among the most prestigious in the world. Nobel’s interest in rewarding achievements in five fields was rooted in family tradition and his own life experience.
2. Nobel was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833. His father, Immanuel Nobel, was an engineer and inventor. He designed steam engines and underwater mines. He also was a pioneer in arms manufacturing and had experimented with different techniques of blasting rocks.
3. When Alfred was young the family had to move to Russia. There, Alfred and his brothers received a first-class education. By the age of 17, Alfred was fluent in five languages and had developed interests ranging from chemistry to English poetry. Soon after young Nobel was sent to Paris for more training in chemical engineering. This gave him the foundation for the work that would place him in history books.
4. A meeting with Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero, who invented nitroglycerine, led to Nobel’s invention of dynamite. As nitroglycerine and its production were difficult to control Nobel tried adding silica to make a paste that could be shaped into rods and inserted into drilling holes. In 1867, he patented his material, calling it dynamite. As a man who discovered how to reduce costs for blasting rocks and drilling tunnels, Nobel became a very wealthy man.
5. He died in Italy on December 10, 1896. In his will, he directed that his fortune be used for prizes in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, literature and peacekeeping. The prize in economic sciences was established in 1968 to commemorate the Bank of Sweden’s 300th anniversary. According to Nobel’s wishes the prizes in science and literature were to be awarded by a Swedish Committee, while the peace prize was to be given out by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Each year, thousands of international experts and research institutes are invited to nominate candidates. Members of governments and the International Court of Justice at the Hague can make suggestions for the peace prize. The nominators are carefully investigated and a vote is taken.

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