Alfred Nobel was born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time of his birth, he was the fourth son of Immanuel and Caroline Nobel. Immanuel, his father, was an inventor and engineer who had married Caroline, his mother, in 1827. They had eight children, but only Alfred and three brothers reached adulthood. As a child Alfred was prone to illness, but this didn't interfere with his love of explosives and the fundamentals of engineering. He learned these things from his father, who failed at various businesses throughout Alfred's life.
Without any formal education, Alfred's experiments with explosives became more serious in 1589. At the time of these experiments, the only available explosive for use in mines was black powder, some kind of gunpowder. Nitroglycerin was soon developed, so Alfred opened a small nitroglycerin manufacturing factory. Simultaneously, he was working on a formula to find a safe way to control the substance's detonation. By 1865, this research paid off and he invented a practical detonator. This detonator was a wooden plug inserted into a larger charge of nitroglycerin that was held in a metal container. Success of the detonator marked the beginning of Nobel's success as an inventor. In 1865, Nobel invented an improved detonator called a blasting cap. The blasting cap was a small metal cap containing a charge of mercury fulminate that could be exploded by heat or shock. This set the tone for the modern use of high explosives.
Nitroglycerin itself still remained very difficult to transport, and even more dangerous to handle. In 1864, a nitroglycerin accident blew up Nobel's factory, killing his younger brother. Almost unaffected by this accident, Nobel built several factories to maintain nitroglycerin production for his blasting caps. He did take more precautionary measures with these factories.
Nobel's second and most well known invention was dynamite in 1867. Accidentally, he noted that nitroglycerin could...