Today in World History: October 21st

Alfred Nobel, Swedish physicist, was born on this day in 1833. His father moved the family to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he invented modern plywood and began research on the torpedo. With the money earned from Nobel’s father’s inventions, the family was able to afford private tutors for Alfred, and he began studying science and engineering. By 1863 Nobel had invented a detonator, and had begun experiments with nitroglycerin to see how well it exploded. In 1864 a factory belonging to Nobel, housing a small team of researchers and his younger brother exploded, killing five people. Nobel continued his research with nitroglycerin, and was able to develop more stable versions. Although his invention, dynamite, was originally intended to be used for mining and clearing debris, dynamite had extraordinary military value and began to be adopted as bombs by armies around Europe and America. By the time of Nobel’s death in 1896, dynamite was responsible for the deaths of hundreds across Europe. After selling dynamite to the Italian army, Nobel was charged with treason by the French government, forcing him to move to Italy, where he lived until his death of a stroke. Due to his immense guilt over his inventions, Nobel left most of his wealth to found an organization that would award prizes for innovators in many fields, including spreading peace across the world, founding the Nobel Prizes.

“If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.”

-Alfred Nobel

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