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On this day in 1833, Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden. When he was nine years old, he moved with his family to St. Petersburg, Russia, where his father worked as an engineer, manufacturing explosives. In Russia, Nobel studied chemistry and became fluent in English, French, German, and Russian. Later the family moved back to Sweden, and Alfred worked for his father in his factory experimenting with explosives.
Tragedy struck in 1864 when an explosion in the Nobel factory killed five people, including Alfred’s younger brother Emil. Resolved to invent a safer explosive, Nobel went to work and in 1867 he patented his invention which he called “Nobel’s Safety Powder.” The new explosive was indeed safer, combining nitroglycerin and an absorbent sand, but it needed a catchier name. To solve this problem, Nobel turned to a Greek root for “power” and coined the word dynamite. Dynamite did, in fact, make the work of miners safer; however, its use in warfare also made killing more efficient.
In 1888, a French newspaper mistakenly published an obituary of Alfred, stating, “The merchant of death is dead.” Although the reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, the obituary still caused Alfred to reflect on his legacy. He immediately changed his will, setting aside his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes, awarded each year in Sweden for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for contributions towards peace. A prize for economics was added in 1968 (1).
Today’s Challenge: Dynamite Inventions
What would you argue is the greatest single invention of all time? What do you know about its inventor and how it was invented? Brainstorm a list of inventions. Then, select the one that you think is deserving of being recognized for its genius. Write an explanation of why you think the invention is so special. Include some details from research on its inventor and where, when, and how the invention came to be. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1-Biography.com. Alfred Nobel Biography. http://www.biography.com/people/alfred-nobel-9424195#an-invention-and-a-legacy.