Alfred Berhard Nobel, Swedish chemist, c 1885.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Alfred Berhard Nobel (1833-1896) invented a safe and manageable form of nitroglycerin he called dynamite. Later, he invented smokeles gunpowder and gelignite (1875). Nobel helped to create an industrial empire manufacturing explosives and amased a large fortune, much of which he left to fund the Nobel Prizes, which were first awarded in 1901. Awards were given for excellence in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.