Dynamite had its beginnings in Chinese fireworks, Arabs' gunpowder, Roger Bacon's secret formula, and subsequent experiments with nitroglycerin. Alfred Nobel devoted his life (and took others' in the process, including his brothers') to harnessing the awesome explosive--making the first dynamite sticks by mixing his notorious ""blasting oil"" with a kind of clay. ""Now mountains could be moved!"" Tunnels, roads, railroad beds, the Erie and Panama canals, and the New York City subway system were carved out; coal and mineral mining forged ahead; and the Mount Rushmore heads were roughed out--all with dynamite, which ""literally constructed our modern world."" ""Our present high standard of living is a direct outgrowth"" of dynamite blasting. On the minus side, Nobel's obituary, published by mistake when his brother died, called him ""the merchant of death."" (After reading it, he established the prize for peace.) And the search for more and more powerful explosives has opened the way to nuclear devastation. Gleasner is weak on the development of dynamite afar Nobel's initial breakthrough, but if the subject rates a treatment fleshed out beyond reference-book dimensions, this will do.