Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm, Sweden on October 21, 1833.(Encarta) His father Immanuel Nobel was an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm. In connection with his construction work Immanuel Nobel also experimented with different techniques of blasting rock. Alfred's mother, Andrietta Ahlsell came from a wealthy family. Due to misfortunes in the 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, Andrietta 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.
The naval mines designed by Immanuel Nobel were simple devices consisting of submerged wooden casks filled with gun powder. 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. 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.