Ludvig Nobel

Ludvig Nobel

Ludvig Nobel (1831-1888) was an engineering genius, a noted businessman and a humanitarian. Son of Immanuel Nobel (also an engineering pioneer), he was Alfred Nobel's (founder of the Nobel Prize) older brother. With his brother Robert, he operated Branobel, an oil company in Baku, which at one point produced 50% of the world's oil. He is credited with creating the Russian oil industry.

Nobel did not always live in wealthy circumstances, and as a young child on one occasion had to sell matches on a Stockholm street to earn money for his family. He was formally educated for just three years, mostly in engineering.

The technical management of the family factory (making war supplies such as mines) was given to Nobel when he was 28 by his father's creditors. While running the factory in St. Petersburg, he asked Robert to explore southern Russia for wood to make gun stocks for the tsar. Robert found oil instead, and they set up their company in 1876. Nobel invented oil tankers, and better refineries, pipelines. Before 1880 the United States was Russia's teacher in most aspects of the oil business. The roles were reversed in some respects by Nobel.

The oil business lacked technical know-how and scientific methodology. To rectify this, Nobel established technical chemical research labs in Baku and St. Petersburg. Dozens of scientists were employed, finding ways to treat oil, developing new uses for oil, and developing products derived from oil. [] These research centers were very active and when something of commercial interest was found, Nobel was fast in trying out the new products on a large scale.

Nobel first experimented with carrying oil in bulk on single-hulled barges. Turning his attention to self-propelled tankships, a primary concern was to keep the cargo and fumes well away from the engine room to avoid fires. Other challenges included allowing for the cargo to expand and contract due to temperature changes, and providing a method to ventilate the tanks.

The world's first successful oil tanker was Nobel's "Zoroaster". He designed this in Lindholmen-Motala in Sweden with Sven Almqvist. The contract to build it was signed January 1878, and it made its first run later that year from Baku to Astrakhan. The design was widely studied and copied, with Nobel refusing to patent any part of it. In October 1878, he ordered two more tankers of the same design: the "Buddha" and the "Nordenskjöld". The first tank steamer of the United States was built after drawings and calculations of Nobel after his death.

Nobel was a strong humanitarian as well as a businessman, full of ideas and visions. He introduced profit sharing and worked actively to improve working conditions in his factories. His humanity and social approach was unique for the time. [] In 1885 he started a cooperative bank, sparkasse, for the workers. In Baku, social areas were built for the workers like dining rooms, billiard rooms, libraries and conference rooms where speeches and discussions were held. Near his home, Villa Petrolea, several houses for the workers were built and a shuttle boat was offered between the city and the harbour. The company donated funds to schools and ran a hospital.

Ludvig and Robert created a large park, still existent, in the "Black City" section of Baku near Villa Petrolea.

After his death, Nobel's son Emanuel Nobel took over the running of Branobel.


*cite book |last=Tolf |first=Robert W. |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Russian Rockefellers: The Saga of the Nobel Family and the Russian Oil Industry |origdate= |origyear=|origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |volume= |date= |year=1976 |month= |publisher=Hoover Press |location= |language= |isbn=0817965815 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl |quote=

External links

* [ A biography on the Nobel Prize web site]
* [ The Tsaritsyn Heritage of the Nobel Brothers ]

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