What Is Alfred Nobel Famous For?

A Swedish chemist, scientist, engineer and inventor, Alfred Nobel is perhaps most well-known for establishing the Nobel Prizes. He is also famous for inventing dynamite and other explosives.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden on Oct. 21, 1833, Alfred Nobel was the fourth of eight children born to Immanuel and Caroline Nobel. Immanuel found work manufacturing explosives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and this is where Alfred spent his formative years. An inquisitive child, Alfred studied under private tutors, mastering chemistry and becoming fluent in multiple languages.

At the age of 18, Alfred left Russia to spend a year studying chemistry in Paris. From there, he moved to the United States for five years, before returning to St. Petersburg, where he worked making military equipment in his father's factory. In 1859, the munitions factory closed and the Nobel family moved back to Sweden.

In 1864, a devastating explosion in the Nobel family's factory killed Alfred's brother Emil. Distraught over this tragedy, Alfred set out to develop a safer explosive, ultimately creating dynamite in 1867.

When Alfred's brother Ludvig died in 1888, a newspaper accidentally published Alfred's obituary by mistake, strongly condemning him for inventing dynamite. Upset over what he thought his legacy might be, Nobel used the wealth from his inventions to establish the Nobel Prizes. These awards honor individuals for outstanding achievements in chemistry, literature, physics and medicine and for working to achieve peace.