14 Jul: Mr. Dynamite

Dynamite was invented by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, who demonstrated it in Britain for the first time on 14th July, 1867. He had discovered that when nitroglycerin, an explosive liquid, was absorbed by kieselguhr, a porous siliceous earth, it produced a solid that was resistant to shock but readily detonable by heat or percussion, making it safer to handle.

Nobel named his invention “dynamite” after the Greek word “dynamis,” meaning “power”. His invention revolutionized the construction industry and made possible many engineering feats such as the construction of canals, tunnels, and roads, and also had a significant impact on mining, quarrying, and demolition operations.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore the ‘obituary’ legend that supposedly explained Nobel’s creation of the Nobel Prizes; uncover the extraordinary approach the Swede took to health and safety in his factories; and reveal how staggeringly little it cost to buy a stick of dynamite in New York City in 1910… 

Further Reading:

#Science #Discoveries #Sweden #1800s