How Norwegian students are introduced to Kristian Birkeland – the familiar face on the norwegian 200 kroner notes – on a Norwegian student website:
For those of us who know Kristian Birkeland from history classes in high-school this is probably what we know: Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917). Physician who together with the engineer and entrepreneur Sam Eyde invented the Birkeland-Eyde method for recovering nitrogen from air. The process became the basis for Norsk Hydro – the company.
BUT THIS MAN IS MORE INTRIGUING AND COMPLEX THAN MOST PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF
- He lived for a while in Egypt where he studied the zodiacal light. His closest company was two dogs, a pig, a turtle and a cat.
- One of the world’s first space researchers. Many of his theories are continued in the US space program.
- The ateist Birkeland married a pastor’s daughter. It became an unhappy marriage. She became a spiritualist while he fought depressions, nerve problems, hearing loss, mercury poisoning and pill abuse.
- His passion was to understand the Northern Light. All his theories in this respect where confirmed in 1966, but in his own time he met major resistance – especially from british scientists.
- Birkeland claimed in 1906 that splitting atoms were possible.
- A few years later he regarded treating cancer patients with radiation a good idea.
- Margarine is a Birkeland invention.
- We can thank Birkeland for caviar.
- He invented a hearing device too.
- Birkeland almost blasted the Oslo University Auditorium when he was to demonstrate his electric canon for a stiff embellished audience from home and abroad. Fridtjof Nansen in the first row.
- Kristian Birkeland died from an overdose in a hotel room in Tokyo 49 years old.
- His remains – scientific papers included – were transported by boat home to Norway. The boat was sunk – this was during the First World War.
To N2 Applied Kristian Birkeland is a major inspiration – and our forerunner and visionary.