Who Invented Dynamite?
Explosives used on space vehicles can trace their origins back to the man who invented dynamite.
Each time a space shuttle launched, more than 250 strategically located and precisely timed explosive devices had to function perfectly for the mission to succeed.
Explosive ordnance fired to release the space shuttle orbiter from the launch tower. They also separated the shuttle from its solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and external tank. Other charges deployed the parachutes on the SRBs and released them after the boosters hit the ocean. Explosives also pushed the shuttle's nose landing gear downward and deployed its drag chutes during landings.
Explosives were also installed on the external tank and SRBs to protect people on the ground. After the space shuttle Challenger exploded, a safety officer triggered the explosives aboard the SRBs to prevent them from flying over populated areas.
The explosives used on the shuttle and the other space vehicles can trace their origins back to Alfred Nobel, a Swedish engineer who invented dynamite back in 1867. Born in Stockholm on Oct. 21, 1833, Alfred Nobel was the son of inventor Immanuel Nobel and a descendant of the famous 17th century Swedish scientist Olaus Rudbeck, known for his contributions to human anatomy and linguistics.
Alfred Nobel, the man who invented dynamite
When Alfred Nobel was 18, he went to the United States for four years to study chemistry. Upon his return to Stockholm, Nobel focused on the development of explosives and the safe production of nitroglycerine. Nobel discovered that nitroglycerine became vastly safer to handle when it was incorporated in diatomaceous earth. The mixture was put into a protective coating and set off using a blasting cap and fuse.
Nobel had invented dynamite, which is the Greek word for "power." He patented dynamite in 1867 and demonstrated it for the first time at a quarry in Surrey, England. Over the years that followed, he greatly improved upon his initial design through the use of more efficient mixtures.
Dynamite proved to be a boon for miners and railroad builders who needed to blast through solid rock. The explosive could be fit into bored holes and set off from a distance, vastly improving safety in work sites.
Of course, dynamite also can be used as a weapon. When Nobel's brother Ludvig died in Cannes, a French newspaper mistakenly published Alfred's obituary and declared, "Le marchand de la mort est mort." ("The merchant of death is dead.") Nobel's main achievement in inventing dynamite was to find a faster way of killing more people, the newspaper declared.
Upset that he would be remembered this way, Nobel set up a series of prizes in his name, including the Nobel Peace Prize. When he died in 1896, the inventor of dynamite bequeathed 1.8 billion kronor (more than $250 million in today's dollars) to fund the Nobel Prizes.