What Did Alfred Nobel Invent?

Swedish chemist and philanthropist Alfred Bernhard Nobel invented dynamite. Nobel mixed nitroglycerine and kieslguhr (diatomaceous earth) in a series of experiments in the 1860s to create the explosive, according to History Today. Nobel’s work in the arms industry led him to establish the Nobel prize.

Nobel learned about the armaments industry from his father Immanuel Nobel, a builder and inventor who pioneered modern plywood and the torpedo. While the family lived in Russia, the factory produced machine tools and explosives and supplied armaments during the Crimean War. Upon his family's return to Sweden, Nobel studied explosives, and in particular how to safely manufacture nitroglycerin, invented by Ascanio Sobrero, a fellow student from the University of Paris.

Nobel’s experiments led him to invent a detonator in 1863 and the blasting cap in 1865. Following an explosion that killed his brother Emil, Nobel focused his work on improving the stability of his explosives. This research led to his invention of dynamite, a safer explosive, in 1867. After being patented in the United Kingdom and the United States, dynamite was used in mining and building transportation networks. In 1875, Nobel invented gelignite, which was more stable that dynamite. In 1887, he invented ballistite, a predecessor of cordite.