Introducing… Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. His father was an engineer and inventor. In 1842, Nobel’s family moved to Russia where his father had opened an engineering firm providing equipment for the Tsar’s armies. In 1850, Nobel’s father sent him abroad to study chemical engineering. During a two-year period Nobel visited Sweden, Germany, France and the United States. He returned to Sweden in 1863 with his father after the family firm went bankrupt.
Back in Sweden, Nobel devoted himself to the study of explosives. He was particularly interested in the safe manufacture and use of nitro-glycerine, a highly unstable explosive. Nobel’s brother Emil had been killed in a nitro-glycerine explosion in 1864. Nobel incorporated nitro-glycerine into silica, an inert substance, which made it safer and easier to manipulate. This he patented in 1867 under the name of ‘dynamite’. Dynamite established Nobel’s fame and was soon used in blasting tunnels, cutting canals and building railways and roads all over the world. Nobel went on to invent a number of other explosives.
In the 1870s and 1880s, Nobel built up a network of factories all over Europe to manufacture explosives. In 1894, he bought an ironworks at Bofors in Sweden that became the nucleus of the well-known Bofors arms factory. Although he lived in Paris, Nobel travelled widely. He continued to work in his laboratory, inventing a number of synthetic materials and by the time of his death he had registered 355 patents.
In November 1895, Nobel signed his will providing for the establishment of the Nobel Prizes. He set aside the bulk of his huge fortune to establish annual prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. An Economics Prize was added later.
Nobel died at his home in Italy on 10 December 1896. He is buried in Stockholm.
You can find out more about Alfred Nobel at the Nobel Prize website.
Find out more about dynamite on Wikipedia.
Facts about Sweden
Year of EU entry: 1995
Political system: Constitutional monarchy
Capital city: Stockholm
Total area: 449 964 km²
Population: 9.2 million
Official EU languages: Swedish
Sweden has the largest population of the Nordic countries. It is separated in the west from Norway by a range of mountains and shares the Gulf of Bothnia to the north of the Baltic Sea with Finland.
The southern part of the country is chiefly agricultural, with forests covering an increasing percentage of the land the further north one goes. Population density is also higher in southern Sweden, with many people living in the valley of Lake Mälaren and the Öresund region.
In 1971 the Riksdag became a single-chamber Parliament. Its 349 members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term.
The country has at least 17 000 indigenous Samis among its population a community that derives most of its income from reindeer. Sweden is also home to a small number of ethnic Finns.
Swedens far northSweden exports cars, engineering products, steel, electronic devices, communications equipment and paper products.
Swedes played a pioneering role of the early days of cinema. Leading the way were Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. Later on, directors like Ingmar Bergman and actresses such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Anita Ekberg made careers abroad. Swedish music is in many minds synonymous with the ’70s pop group ABBA.
Swedish cuisine is known for its Smorgåsbord (a buffet of savoury delicacies), Baltic herring, pea soup and pancakes.
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