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Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Alfred Nobel, Copyright © The Nobel Foundation

Alfred Nobel

The Man Behind the Nobel Prize

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize.

Biographical Information

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 21, 1833. His family was descended from Olof Rudbeck, the best-known technical genius in Sweden in the 17th century, an era in which Sweden was a great power in northern Europe. Nobel was fluent in several languages, and wrote poetry and drama. Nobel was also very interested in social and peace-related issues, and held views that were considered radical during his time.

Alfred Nobel Timeline


1833Alfred Nobel is born in Stockholm, Sweden. In the same year, his father – Immanuel Nobel – goes bankrupt.
1837Immanuel Nobel travels to Finland and then to St Petersburg, Russia, where he starts a mechanical workshop; he leaves his family behind in Sweden.
1842The Nobel family is reunited in St Petersburg.
1850-1852Alfred Nobel goes to Paris and works for one year in the laboratory of T. Jules Pelouze. He also travels to Italy, Germany and the United States (US).
1853-1856The Crimean War rages.

The Nobel Company flourishes at first, but goes bankrupt as the war ends and the Russian military cancels orders.

Alfred Nobel searches desperately for new products. Nikolai N. Zinin, Nobel's chemistry teacher, reminds him of nitroglycerin.
1862Alfred Nobel starts his experiments with nitroglycerin.
1863Nobel obtains the first patent on nitroglycerin (blasting oil) as an industrial explosive. He develops and patents a detonator (blasting cap) for triggering the explosion of nitroglycerin. He also moves to Stockholm, where he continues his experiments.
1864Emil, Alfred Nobel's brother, is killed during the preparation of nitroglycerin at Heleneborg, Stockholm.

Nobel continues his experiments and forms the company Nitroglycerin AB in Stockholm, Sweden.
1865Alfred Nobel improves the blasting cap design and moves to Germany to set up the Alfred Nobel & Co Factory in Krümmel near Hamburg.
1866Nobel establishes the United States Blasting Oil Company in the US.

A violent explosion destroys the Krümmel plant. Experimenting on a raft anchored on the river Elbe, Alfred Nobel tries to make nitroglycerin safer to handle. He finds that nitroglycerin is stabilized by the addition of kieselguhr(a siliceous deposit; also known as diatomaceous earth), and calls this mixture dynamite.
1867Alfred Nobel obtains a patent for dynamite.
1871Nobel establishes the British Dynamite Company (Ardeer, Scotland, UK). In 1877 the company name is changed to Nobel's Explosives Company.
1872Immanuel, Alfred Nobel's father, passes away.
1873At the age of 40 Alfred Nobel is a wealthy man. He moves to Paris and settles at Avenue Malakoff.

The manufacture of nitroglycerin and dynamite starts at Ardeer.
1875Alfred Nobel invents blasting gelatine in Paris and patents it in 1876. He establishes Société Générale pour la Fabrication de la Dynamite in Paris, France.
1876Dynamitaktiengesellschaft (DAG), formerly Alfred Nobel & Co (Hamburg, Germany), is formed.

Alfred Nobel advertises for a housekeeper/personal secretary, meets with Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau (later von Suttner) and hires her. She leaves his employment after a short time and becomes a leading peace activist.
1880Dynamite Nobel is formed by merging Nobel's Italian and Swiss companies.
1881Alfred Nobel buys an estate and laboratory at Sevran outside Paris.
1885German Union is formed by merging DAG and a group of German dynamite companies.
1886Nobel-Dynamite Trust Co (London, UK) is formed by merging DAG and the Nobel's Explosives Company.
1887Nobel obtains a patent for the blasting powder "ballistite" in France.
1889Andriette, Alfred Nobel's mother, passes away.
1891Alfred Nobel leaves Paris and settles in San Remo, Italy, after a dispute with the French government over ballistite.
1893Alfred Nobel hires Ragnar Sohlman, who he later names executor of his will and testament.
1894Alfred Nobel buys a small machine works (Bofors-Gullspång) and a manor (Björkborn) at Karlskoga, Sweden.
1895The third and final will of Alfred Nobel is signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris.
1896Alfred Nobel dies at his home in San Remo, Italy, on 10 December 1896.

Facts and Lists

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. In 1968, economic sciences added to the the list of fields.

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies

The Nobel Laureates take center stage in Stockholm on 10 December when they receive the Nobel Prize Medal, Nobel Prize Diploma and document confirming the Nobel Prize amount from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. In Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates receive their Nobel Peace Prize from the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the presence of King Harald V of Norway. An important part is the presentation of the Nobel Lectures by the Nobel Laureates. In Stockholm, the lectures are presented days before the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. In Oslo, the Nobel Laureates deliver their lectures during the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.


Nobel Prize Awarded Organizations

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 23 times to organizations between 1901 and 2009. 20 individual organizations have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, as UNHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has received the Nobel Peace Prize twice, in 1954 and 1981, and the work of Comité international de la Croix Rouge (International Committee of the Red Cross) (ICRC) has been honoured three times, in 1917, 1944 and 1963.
Women Nobel Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Gerty Cori 

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Pearl Buck 

The Nobel Peace Prize

The Prize in Economic Sciences


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