Thursday, 15 Nov 2018

Alfred Nobel. An Outstanding Scientist

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel is well-known almost by all the people in the world. His famous Nobel Prize is still awarded to different researchers, scientists. Alfred Bernard Nobel was a Swedish industrialist, chemist, inventor of dynamite, founder of the Nobel Prize. In honor of this  scientist chemical element of nobelium was named, as well as the Nobel Physic-Chemical Institute in Stockholm.

The future scientist was born on October 21, 1833. Alfred’s father was the inventor-autodidact Emmanuel Nobel, a peasant from the district Nobelef. The nugget scientist became famous for making military mines that were used by Russian artillery during the Crimean War. For this invention, Alfred Nobel was presented to the imperial reward.

Mother Andrietta Nobel was a housewife, brought up four sons: Alfred, Robert, Ludwig and Emil. The family first lived in Sweden, then moved to the territory of Finland, after which she emigrated to Russia, to St. Petersburg. Emmanuel was engaged not only in the weapons business, Nobel’s father made a great contribution to the development of home heating systems using water vapor. The engineer invented the machines for assembling wheels for carts.

Alfred Nobel. An Outstanding Scientist - photo 1

Alfred Nobel

Nobel’s children were taught at home. They had a governess who taught the brothers natural sciences, literature and European languages. By the end of their studies, the boys were fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German.  Emmanuel Nobel saw in Russia a future not only for himself, but also for his sons. In a letter to the father-in-law, he wrote: “If my sons run into each other and continue the enterprise I started, I suppose, with God’s help, they will not have to think about a piece of bread, because in Russia there is a lot of business. His sons, Robert and Ludwig, will become the founders of the Russian oil and petrochemical industry, and with his grandson, Emmanuel, this industry will produce more than half of world oil production.

Emmanuel Nobel believed that the final stage in the formation of sons should be work in his enterprise, where young men under the strict control of factory masters learn the secrets of technology and organization. He gave such a description to his children: “Robert is more endowed with a penchant for speculation, Ludwig with genius, and Alfred Nobel with a capacity for work.”

Under the leadership of the Russian scientist Nikolai Nikolaevich Zinin, Alfred Nobel became interested in the study of glycerol trinitrate. Scientific work ultimately led the young scientist to the invention that made the chemist famous. The creation of dynamite, which was recorded on May 7, 1867, is considered to be the main work in Nobel’s biography.

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Alfred Nobel

In 1850, his father sent Alfred Nobel on a trip to France, Italy, Germany and the United States. In Paris, for a year, the young man worked in the laboratory of the famous chemist Theophile Jules Pelouze (Pelouze), who in 1836 established the composition of glycerol. In his laboratory from 1840 to 1843. worked Ascanio Sobrero (Sobrero), who first received nitroglycerin.

In 1852, Alfred Nobel returned to St. Petersburg and continued work on his father’s enterprise. After the start of the Crimean War, Emmanuel Nobel received an order for his mines to protect Kronstadt and Sveaborg from the sea. In May 1854, 105 galvanic mines of the Jacobi were installed between the Kronstadt forts “Paul I” and “Alexander I”. In June, 92 Alfred Nobel strike mines were located on the left flank of the fort at a depth of 3.6 m and a distance of 24 m from each other. By the summer of 1855, another 270 mines of Nobel blocked the path of the Anglo-French squadron towards Oranienbaum.

After Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War, Alfred Nobel lost his military orders, and his huge enterprise with the most modern equipment stood idle, while thousands of workers were left without work. He worked on the improvement of the barometer and pressure gauge, as well as a device for accurate metering of liquids. Precise measuring instruments were needed for a developing industry. But this did not save Emmanuel from bankruptcy, and in 1859, he and his wife and Emil returned to Sweden. Robert moved to Finland, Ludwig very successfully liquidated his father’s factory and founded his factory “Ludwig Nobel”, which will be called later “Russian diesel”.

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Alfred Nobel

Since in Russia private individuals were prohibited from producing explosives, and it was completely impossible to get a patent for them, Alfred Nobel responded to the invitation of his father and went to Sweden. October 14, 1863 he filed a patent application for a powder charge, enhanced nitroglycerin. This patent will be the first patent in the world for the use of nitroglycerin as an explosive. With a request, Alfred visited Paris, where he applied to the General Society of Real Estate Loans, which belonged to the Pereire brothers, prominent financiers who built the first railway in France. They gave Alfred Nobel a loan of 100,000 francs invested in the production of nitroglycerin.

The Nobels lived in Helenborg, near Stockholm, on an old farm. In addition to them, there lived a metalworker and a peasant family with 5 children. Before the arrival of his son Nobel Senior, he conducted his experiments with nitroglycerin and gunpowder in the kitchen. Now, having a patent, they rented a dilapidated house in Helenborg, where they set up a laboratory and a factory for the production of nitroglycerin. By this time, Alfred came up with an injector-mixer for glycerin and nitric acid for the safer production of nitroglycerin in large quantities.

On September 3, 1864, an explosion of 100 kg of nitroglycerin occurred, during which Alfred’s brother Emil (1842-1864) and 3 employees were killed. After 2 weeks, Emmanuel suffered a heart stroke and spent the last 8 years of his life in bed. But the disease did not make him less active. He wrote 3 books with his own illustrations. He painted his favorite mines in water, exploding ships, destroyers with crews on the board against the backdrop of beautiful landscapes. The winches and other mechanisms were not forgotten either. In addition, he was haunted by new ideas. In 1870, he thought about the use of waste wood industry and invented a method of gluing wooden plates with steam, that is, he invented plywood, made instructions for its production and use in construction and household. Beautiful drawings of plywood were made. Attached instructions for organizing the sale of new materials, he drew up a business plan, which then did not interest anyone.

Alfred Nobel. An Outstanding Scientist - photo 4

Alfred Nobel

In 1860, Alfred, on the advice of Zinin, resumed experiments with nitroglycerin. He knew that Zinin and Petrushevsky were carrying out experimental explosions, but he did not know the details, since the results of the experiments were declassified only in 1881. On October 14, 1863, Alfred Nobel patented a powder charge in which nitroglycerin is added to increase explosive power. Soon he demonstrated to the Swedish officers an explosion of a cast-iron bomb filled with a mixture of gunpowder and nitroglycerin in equal proportions. The officers were so amazed at the results of the explosion that they warned the authorities about the danger of a new substance, which, in their opinion, should be banned.

On May 5, 1865, Alfred Nobel patented a new way to control the explosion, in which the charge of nitroglycerin was enclosed in a sealed metal capsule. Another charge, which was supposed to cause an explosion of nitroglycerin, was placed in a wooden capsule with a fuse. He improved the design of the detonator many times until he came to the last version, “number 8,” which is still in use. This is a metal tube, open at one end. It was filled with rattling mercury, a cord was inserted into its open end. The tube was placed in charge, the flame of the ignited cord caused an explosion of the capsule, which initiated the explosion of nitroglycerin.

May 7, 1867 “famous” dynamite was patented in England, September 19 – in Sweden. Once again, Alfred Nobel traveled around Europe, convincing governments and businessmen of the safety of dynamite, despite the presence of prohibited nitroglycerin, and sought permission to use it in the mines, when tunneling and building roads. It was also used during the tunneling of the St. Gotthard tunnel. And although Alfred Nobel did not like official receptions, he was very offended that he was not invited to the opening of the tunnel. He wrote: “Dynamite allowed us to finish construction faster and saved millions – and no interest in me <…> This is the most real oblivion, since only the most uncultured and lazy person could not send me invitations to the ceremony.”

Alfred Nobel. An Outstanding Scientist - photo 5

Alfred Nobel. Dynamite

But the father and son Nobel were rewarded from the Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1868, academy presented them with a prize, which was awarded annually “for achievements in the field of art, literature or science, as well as for important discoveries that have benefited humanity.” The father received an award for “expanding the use of nitroglycerin as an explosive,” and his son was awarded for inventing dynamite.

Besides the fact that Alfred Nobel was a famous chemist, he was fond of writing literary works, fiction books. The chemist’s outlet was poems and prose, which the scientist wrote in his free time. One of the controversial works of Alfred Nobel was the play Nimezid, which was forbidden to be published for many years and staged by church ministers, and only in 2003, to the day of the scientist’s memory, it was staged by the Stockholm Drama Theater.

It is not so much known about Nobel’s personal life. He had no family. However, outwardly, the scientist was very attractive: a slim, bearded brunette of medium height with expressive features and dark-blue eyes. He liked intelligent and educated women, he corresponded with some of them.

Alfred’s first lover was a young pharmacist. She died from the disease, and Alfred Nobel was shocked so much that for twenty years after he paid no attention to women. Of course, Alfred Nobel couldn’t stay alone and at performance in Paris the scientist met famous actress Sarah Bernard. Alfred Nobel was very passionate to her, but hesitated … Is that the woman he needed? In the end, when Sarah went on a three-month tour around America, he wrote a letter to his mother in Sweden, asking for advice – whether to marry an actress or not? The mother replied: “Son, I know, in France, the man who ruined his life because of the woman, is treated with sympathy and regret, but the man himself is proud of it. In your homeland, my son, he would be considered a dummy. Take the example of the Swedish … Alf, the identity of the actors consists of all the roles they played on the stage, and in heart of this personality is something amorphous, which can be given any shape. No wonder why actors in the old days were not allowed to be buried in the cemetery. They have no soul, son! ”The son did not dare to disobey his mother. Communication with Sarah Bernard was broken.

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Alfred Nobel and Sarah Bernard

Being already in age, Alfred Nobel was looking for a secretary for himself in one of the Viennese newspapers (he himself lived in Paris at that time). She was approached by the impoverished 33-year-old Countess Bertha Kinsky, who had previously served as a governess in Vienna, in the family of barons von Sutner. Berta was secretly engaged to the son of a baron, but his family opposed this marriage, and she decided to leave for Paris. Fraulein Kinsky was beautiful, fluent in four languages, fond of music and literature, and was in all respects a secular woman. All this attracted Alfred Nobel. Mutual sympathy arose between them, and, perhaps, deeper feelings.  However, Bertha’s fiancé Arthur von Suttner filled her with love letters, insisting that he could not live without her, and she soon returned to Vienna to secretly get married. The departure of Bertha Kinsky was a big strike to Alfred Nobel, who found a friend in her face. However, their friendship continued, they had correspondence for a long time.

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Alfred Nobel and Bertha Kinsky

In 1876, at the resort, Alfred Nobel met a young girl from a poor family of Austrian Jews named Sophie Hess. She worked in a flower shop. Sophie was very sweet, but she didn’t have any special talents. In addition, she was pretty lazy. Alfred Nobel tried to help her to get an education and hired a French teacher, but she was not interested in the lessons. In addition, he rented her an apartment in Paris and paid generous maintenance. At first the scientist did this for purely altruistic reasons, but then fell in love with her. However, he assured people around him that there was no relationship other than friendly relations between them, and he even advised Sophie to find a younger partner. But with time she demanded that Alfred make her his wife, and, not waiting for this, began to call herself “Madame Nobel”. In short, Sophie Hess abused the trust of Alfred Nobel in every way. It is difficult to judge their true relationship – their correspondence shows that the scientist in many respects treated this girl as a child, nothing more. Gradually their mutual affection cooled because of the difficult nature of Sophie. Finally, they broke up completely.

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Alfred Nobel and Sophie Hess

Sophie became pregnant by a single cavalry captain, and after giving birth, she married him. The captain soon disappeared somewhere. Alfred Nobel helped Sophie and her daughter, took care of their family. However, after his death, they were left without money. Sophie dared to claim a significant part of the scientist’s inheritance, promising to provide evidence that she was his wife. Subsequently, the executors of the will entered into an agreement with her, under which she undertook to give intimate letters that could damage Nobel’s reputation in exchange for paying her a cash allowance. Unfortunately, Alfred was unhappy in his personal life and he didn’t share his life with anybody.

But unfortunately he made a great contribution to the history of science. In 1893, Alfred Nobel made the first will, in which was stated that a significant part of the scientist’s capital must be transferred after the death of the chemist of the Royal Academy of Sciences. For the amount transferred it was supposed to open a fund that will annually transfer the award for discoveries. In this case, 5% of the legacy of Nobel bequeathed to Stockholm University, Stockholm Hospital and the Karolinska Medical University.

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Nobel Prize

But two years later, the will was changed. The document already canceled payments to relatives and organizations, and recommended the creation of a fund in which the scientist’s capital would be kept in the form of stocks and bonds. Income from securities was obliged to divide equally annually into five awards. Each award (now the Nobel Prize) will be awarded for discoveries in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and the movement for peace.  On June 29th 1900 the Nobel Foundation was founded. This date is considered to be the day of the establishment of the Nobel Prize. Currently, the Nobel Prize is 10 million Swedish kronor (about 1.05 million euros or 1.5 million dollars).

On December 10, 1896, an engineer died from the effects of a stroke in his own villa in San Remo. The ashes of the scientist were transported to their homeland and buried in the cemetery of Norra.

Alfred Nobel was undoubtedly a very distinguished person and made a great contribution to humanity. Of course, many people do not have 472 million dollars like Alfred Nobel to establish something similar to the Nobel Prize, but by selflessly doing good things to others, they leave a distinct mark. John Maxwell once said: “There are two most important days in people’s life – the first one is when they were born, and the second when they found out for what.”

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