Science and Invention

Alfred Nobel

What did Alfred Nobel do?

The Swedish chemist whose name is known around the world because of the Nobel prize, invented dynamite (1866). Even though dynamite improved the safety of explosives, Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) became concerned with how his invention would be used. Nobel was a pacifist; he was involved in the explosives industry because it was his family’s business. In his will, he set up a fund (bequeathing a sum of $9.2 million) to reward people who make strides in the sciences, literature, and promoting international peace. He died in 1896, and the Nobel prize has been awarded annually (except for 1940–42) since 1901. Recipients in any of five categories—physics, chemistry, medicine/physiology, literature, and peace—are presented with a gold medal, a diploma, and a substantial monetary award (in the hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars for each laureate). A sixth related award is the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which was established in 1968 by the Swedish national bank and was first awarded in 1969. The laureates are announced each year in October, and the prizes are handed out in ceremonies on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.


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