Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), Swedish inventor and philanthropist, was a man of many contrasts. He was a son of a bankrupt, but became a millionaire; a scientist with a love of literature. He made a large fortune but lived a simple life. He was cheerful in company, and often sad in private. A lover of mankind, he never had a wife or family to love him, a patriotic son of his native land, he died alone on foreign soil.
He discovered a new explosive, dynamite, to improve the peacetime industries of mining and road building, but saw it used as a weapon of war. World-famous for his works he was never personally well-known, for throughout his life he avoided publicity. "I do not see" he once said, "that I have deserved any fame and I have no taste for it", but since his death his name has brought fame and glory to others.
He was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833 but moved to Russia with his parents in 1842, where his father made a strong position in engineering industry. He made a lot of money for his invention of landmine, but later went bankrupt. Alfred came to Sweden in 1863, and started his own study of explosives in his fathers laboratory.
He had never been to school or University but he studied privately and by the time he was twenty he became a skillful chemist and excellent linguist, speaking Swedish, Russian, German, French and English. Like his father, Alfred Nobel was imaginative and inventive, but he had better luck in business and showed more financial sense.
He was quick to see industrial openings for his scientific inventions and built up over 80 companies in 20 different countries. Indeed his greatness lay in his outstanding ability to combine the qualities of an original scientist with those of a forward-looking industrialist.
But Nobel's main concern was never with making money or even making scientific discoveries. He was always searching for a meaning to life, and from his youth he had taken a serious...