Nobel prize is awarded annually by Norwegian Nobel Committee each year for outstanding contributions in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, Peace, Literature and Physics. It is not a common or general award but a special one globally. It is only given to most outstanding people even if a person dies before receiving it, this award may still be presented to that person and can be awarded to his family on his behalf. The peace prize is awarded by Oslo, Norway while some other prizes are presented in Stockholm, Sweden.Following is a list of top ten countries receiving most noble prize awards in the history of world. -

Top 10 Nations with Most Noble Prizes Winners

Rank Country No. of Laureates
1. United States 270
2. United Kingdom 101
3. Germany 76
4. France 49
5. Sweden 30
6. Switzerland 22
7. Netherlands 15
8. USSR 14
9. Italy 14
10. Denmark 13

United States is the leading nation which has most Laureates as compared to the other countries. It has 270 Laureates so USA is on the top of the list. UK is on second number by no. of Laureates.

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's interests are reflected in the prize he established.

Alfred Nobel's Life and Work

Born in Stockholm

On October 21, 1833 a baby boy was born to a family in Stockholm, Sweden who was to become a famous scientist, inventor, businessman and founder of the Nobel Prizes. His father was Immanuel Nobel and his mother was Andriette Ahlsell Nobel. They named their son Alfred.

baby

Alfred's father was an engineer and inventor. He built bridges and buildings and experimented with different ways of blasting rocks.

The same year that Alfred was born, his father's business suffered losses and had to be closed. In 1837, Immanuel Nobel decided to try his business somewhere else and left for Finland and Russia. Alfred's mother was left in Stockholm to take care of the family. At this time, Alfred had two older brothers, Robert born in 1829, and Ludvig born in 1831.

Nobel house
The house where Alfred Nobel was born.

Andriette Nobel, who came from a wealthy family, started a grocery store. The store had a modest income that helped in supporting the family.

 Immanuel Nobel  Andriette Nobel
Immanuel Nobel Andriette Nobel

The Family Moves to Russia

After a time, Immanuel Nobel's business in St. Petersburg, Russia started doing well. He had opened a mechanical workshop that provided equipment for the Russian army. He also made the Russian Tsar and his generals believe that sea mines could be used to stop enemy ships from entering and attacking St. Petersburg. The mines stopped the British Royal Navy from moving into firing range of St. Petersburg during the Crimean War in 1853-1856.

With his success in Russia, Immanuel was now able to move his family to St. Petersburg in 1842. By 1843, another boy was born into the family, Emil. The four Nobel brothers were given first class education with the help of private tutors. Their lessons included natural sciences, languages and literature. At the age of 17, Alfred could speak and write in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German.

naval mines
A painting of Immanuel Nobel demonstrating his naval or sea mines to the Tsar of Russia.

Alfred Travels Abroad

Alfred was most interested in literature, chemistry and physics. His father wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps and was not pleased with Alfred's interest in poetry. He decided to send the young man abroad to study and become a chemical engineer.

young Alfred Nobel
Young Alfred Nobel

In Paris, Alfred worked in the private laboratory of Professor T. J. Pelouze, a famous chemist. There he met a young Italian chemist, Ascanio Sobrero. Three years earlier, Sobrero had invented nitroglycerine, a highly explosive liquid. It was considered too dangerous to be of practical use.

Alfred became very interested in nitroglycerine and how it could be used in construction work. When he returned back to Russia after his studies, he worked together with his father to develop nitroglycerine as a commercially and technically useful explosive.

Moving Back to Sweden

After the Crimean War ended, the business of Alfred's father went badly and he decided to move back to Sweden. Alfred's elder brothers Robert and Ludvig stayed in Russia to try and save what was left of the family business. They became successful and went on to develop the oil industry in the southern part of Russia.

After the Nobel family's return to Sweden in 1863, Alfred concentrated on developing nitroglycerine as an explosive. Sadly, these experiments resulted in accidents that killed several people, including Alfred's younger brother, Emil. The government decided to ban these experiments within the Stockholm city limits.

explosion
Move mouse over the illustration to see what happened during Alfred Nobel's earlier experiments with nitroglycerine.

Alfred did not give up and moved his experiments to a barge or flat bottom boat on Lake Maren. In 1864, he was able to start mass production of nitroglycerine but he did not stop experimenting with different additives to make the production much safer.

barge
Barge on Lake Mlaren, Sweden where Alfred Nobel later did his experiments.

Alfred Invents "Dynamite"

Alfred found, through his experiments, that mixing nitroglycerine with a fine sand called kieselguhr would turn the liquid into paste which could be shaped into rods. These rods could then be inserted into drilling holes. The invention was made in 1866. Alfred got a patent or legal right of ownership on this material the next year. He named it "dynamite." He also invented a detonator or blasting cap which could be set off by lighting a fuse.

dynamite

These inventions were made at a time when the diamond drilling crown andpneumatic drill came into general use. Together, these inventions helped reduce the cost of many construction work like drilling tunnels, blasting rocks, building bridges, etc.

Factories in Different Places

Dynamite and detonating caps were much in demand in the construction industry. Because of this, Alfred was able to put up factories in 90 different places. He lived in Paris but often traveled to his factories in more than 20 countries. He was once described as "Europe's richest vagabond." He worked intensively in Stockholm (Sweden), Hamburg (Germany), Ardeer (Scotland), Paris and Sevran (France), Karlskoga (Sweden) and San Remo (Italy). He also experimented in making synthetic rubber and leather and artificial silk. By the time of his death in 1896 he had 355 patents.

Meets Bertha von Suttner

Alfred had no family of his own. One day, he announced in the newspapers for a secretary. An Austrian lady, Bertha Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau got the job. After working for a short time, she moved back to Austria to marry Count Arthur von Suttner.

Alfred and Bertha von Suttner remained friends and exchanged letters through the years. She later became very active in the peace movement. She wrote the famous book "Lay Down Your Arms." When Alfred Nobel later wrote his will to establish the Nobel Prizes, he included a prize for persons or organizations who promoted peace.

Berta von Suttner
Bertha von Suttner

The Nobel Prizes

Alfred died in San Remo, Italy on December 10, 1896. In his last will and testament, he wrote that much of his fortune was to be used to give prizes to those who have done their best for humanity in the field of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.

Not everybody was pleased with this. His will was opposed by his relatives and questioned by authorities in various countries. It took four years for his executors to convince all parties to follow Alfred's wishes.

In 1901, the first Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature were first awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and the Peace Prize in Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway.

first Nobel Prize Award Ceremony
The first Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in 1901 at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm.


Alfred Nobel - His Life and Work

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833. His fatherImmanuel Nobelwas an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm. In connection with his construction work Immanuel Nobel also experimented with different techniques for blasting rocks.

Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel

Alfred's mother, bornAndriette Ahlsell, came from a wealthy family. Due to misfortunes in his construction work caused by the loss of some barges of building material, Immanuel Nobel was forced into bankruptcy the same year Alfred Nobel was born. In 1837 Immanuel Nobel left Stockholm and his family to start a new career in Finland and in Russia. To support the family, Andriette Nobel started a grocery store which provided a modest income. Meanwhile Immanuel Nobel was successful in his new enterprise in St. Petersburg, Russia. He started a mechanical workshop which provided equipment for the Russian army and he also convinced the Tsar and his generals that naval mines could be used to block enemy naval ships from threatening the city.

 Immanuel Nobel  Andriette Nobel
Immanuel Nobel Andriette Nobel

The naval mines designed by Immanuel Nobel were simple devices consisting of submerged wooden casks filled with gunpowder. Anchored below the surface of the Gulf of Finland, they effectively deterred the British Royal Navy from moving into firing range of St. Petersburg during the Crimean war (1853-1856). Immanuel Nobel was also a pioneer in arms manufacture and in designing steam engines

.

Naval mines
Painting by Immanuel Nobel demonstrating his sea or naval mines to the Tsar of Russia.

Successful in his industrial and business ventures, Immanuel Nobel was able, in 1842, to bring his family to St. Petersburg. There, his sons were given a first class education by private teachers. The training included natural sciences, languages and literature. By the age of 17 Alfred Nobel was fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. His primary interests were in English literature and poetry as well as in chemistry and physics. Alfred's father, who wanted his sons to join his enterprise as engineers, disliked Alfred's interest in poetry and found his son rather introverted. In order to widen Alfred's horizons his father sent him abroad for further training in chemical engineering. During a two year period Alfred Nobel visited Sweden, Germany, France and the United States. In Paris, the city he came to like best, he worked in the private laboratory of Professor T. J. Pelouze, a famous chemist. There he met the young Italian chemistAscanio Sobrerowho, three years earlier, had inventednitroglycerine, a highly explosive liquid. Nitroglycerine was produced by mixing glycerine with sulfuric and nitric acid. It was considered too dangerous to be of any practical use. Although its explosive power greatly exceeded that of gunpowder, the liquid would explode in a very unpredictable manner if subjected to heat and pressure. Alfred Nobel became very interested in nitroglycerine and how it could be put to practical use in construction work. He also realized that the safety problems had to be solved and a method had to be developed for the controlled detonation of nitroglycerine. In the United States he visited John Ericsson, the Swedish-American engineer who had developed the screw propeller for ships. In 1852 Alfred Nobel was asked to come back and work in the family enterprise which was booming because of its deliveries to the Russian army. Together with his father he performed experiments to develop nitroglycerine as a commercially and technically useful explosive. As the war ended and conditions changed, Immanuel Nobel was again forced into bankruptcy. Immanuel and two of his sons, Alfred and Emil, left St. Petersburg together and returned to Stockholm. His other two sons, Robert and Ludvig, remained in St. Petersburg. With some difficulties they managed to salvage the family enterprise and then went on to develop theoil industryin the southern part of the Russian empire. They were very successful and became some of the wealthiest persons of their time.

Explosion in the laboratory in Stockholm
Explosion in the laboratory in Stockholm.

After his return to Sweden in 1863, Alfred Nobel concentrated on developing nitroglycerine as an explosive. Several explosions, including one (1864) in which his brother Emil and several other persons were killed, convinced the authorities that nitroglycerine production was exceedingly dangerous. They forbade further experimentation with nitroglycerine within the Stockholm city limits and Alfred Nobel had to move his experimentation to a barge anchored on Lake Mlaren. Alfred was not discouraged and in 1864 he was able to start mass production of nitroglycerine. To make the handling of nitroglycerine safer Alfred Nobel experimented with different additives. He soon found that mixing nitroglycerine withkieselguhrwould turn the liquid into a paste which could be shaped into rods of a size and form suitable for insertion into drilling holes. In 1867 he patented this material under the name ofdynamite. To be able to detonate the dynamite rods he also invented a detonator (blasting cap) which could be ignited by lighting a fuse. These inventions were made at the same time as the diamond drilling crown and the pneumatic drill came into general use. Together these inventions drastically reduced the cost of blasting rock, drilling tunnels, building canals and many other forms of construction work.

 laboratory
Alfred Nobel's laboratory in Bofors, Sweden.

The market for dynamite and detonating caps grew very rapidly and Alfred Nobel also proved himself to be a very skillful entrepreneur and businessman. By 1865 his factory in Krmmel near Hamburg, Germany, was exporting nitroglycerine explosives to other countries in Europe, America and Australia. Over the years he founded factories and laboratories in some 90 different places in more than 20 countries. Although he lived in Paris much of his life he was constantly traveling. Victor Hugo at one time described him as "Europe's richest vagabond". When he was not traveling or engaging in business activities Nobel himself worked intensively in his various laboratories, first in Stockholm and later inHamburg(Germany),Ardeer(Scotland), Paris andSevran(France), Karlskoga (Sweden) andSan Remo(Italy). He focused on the development of explosives technology as well as other chemical inventions, including such materials as synthetic rubber and leather, artificial silk, etc. By the time of his death in 1896 he had 355 patents.

Intensive work and travel did not leave much time for a private life. At the age of 43 he was feeling like an old man. At this time he advertised in a newspaper "Wealthy, highly-educated elderly gentleman seeks lady of mature age, versed in languages, as secretary and supervisor of household." The most qualified applicant turned out to be an Austrian woman, Countess Bertha Kinsky. After working a very short time for Nobel she decided to return to Austria to marry Count Arthur von Suttner. In spite of this Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner remained friends and kept writing letters to each other for decades. Over the years Bertha von Suttner became increasingly critical of the arms race. She wrote a famous book,Lay Down Your Arms and became a prominent figure in the peace movement. No doubt this influenced Alfred Nobel when he wrote his final will which was to include a Prize for persons or organizations who promoted peace. Several years after the death of Alfred Nobel, the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) decided to award the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize to Bertha von Suttner.

Bertha von Suttner

Alfred Nobel's greatness lay in his ability to combine the penetrating mind of the scientist and inventor with the forward-looking dynamism of the industrialist. Nobel was very interested in social and peace-related issues and held what were considered radical views in his era. He had a great interest in literature and wrote his own poetry and dramatic works. The Nobel Prizes became an extension and a fulfillment of his lifetime interests.

Many of the companies founded by Nobel have developed into industrial enterprises that still play a prominent role in the world economy, for example Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Great Britain; Socit Centrale de Dynamite, France; and Dyno Industries in Norway. Toward the end of his life, he acquired the company AB Bofors in Karlskoga, where Bjrkborn Manor became his Swedish home. Alfred Nobel died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896. When hiswillwas opened it came as a surprise that his fortune was to be used for Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. The executors of his will were two young engineers,Ragnar Sohlmanand Rudolf Lilljequist. They set about forming theNobel Foundationas an organization to take care of the financial assets left by Nobel for this purpose and to coordinate the work of the Prize-Awarding Institutions. This was not without its difficulties since the will was contested by relatives and questioned by authorities in various countries.

 Ragnar Sohlman
Ragnar Sohlman


Alfred Nobel's Health and His Interest in Medicine

In hiswillof November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel specified that the bulk of his estate should be deposited in a fund, the interest of which should be divided into five parts and to be used for Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace. One of the five shares should be given to the person "who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of Physiology or Medicine". The Royal Caroline Medico-Surgical Institute in Stockholm, today