Today in History – November 25, 1867 – Alfred Nobel receives the patent for dynamite.
While in Paris, Nobel came to work with Ascanio Sobrero, the inventor of nitroglycerine. Though it was ten times stronger that black powder, it was highly unstable. Nobel was intrigued with nitroglycerine’s potential as a construction tool. But he knew he had to make it safer to use. In 1860 he began his experiments on nitroglycerine and went on to create an detonator (blasting cap) for it. Though one of his brothers died in an 1864 nitroglycerine accident, Nobel continued his work to improve the substance. In 1866 he finds that the addition of kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) stabilizes the substances and makes it moldable. Because the substance could be shaped into cylinders it made it a perfect fit for the holes created by the newly invented diamond tipped drill. With dynamite construction on bridges, tunnels, and other projects occurred faster, cheaper, and safer. And in 1867 Nobel obtained the patent for the substance now known as dynamite.
Nobel’s makes much of his fortune through dynamite. And it later years he pursues further work in weapons technology. However late in his life, and especially through his interactions with Bertha von Suttner, he became increasingly interested in working for world peace. In 1888 a premature obituary was printed condemning him for inventing dynamite, which was now also used as a weapon in wars. In order to create a more positive legacy, Nobel left much of his estate to create the Nobel Prizes.
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