Date: 03 Sep 2014

Birkeland, Kristian Olaf Bernhard

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BornChristiania (Oslo, Norway), 13 December 1867

DiedTokyo, Japan, 15 June 1917

Kristian Birkeland, perhaps Norway’s most famous scientist, produced the first artificial aurorae, organized polar expeditions to collect auroral data, and contributed to the theoretical understanding of these upper atmospheric phenomena.

Birkeland was the son of Reinart Birkeland and Ingeborg (née Ege). His one brother, Tonnes Gunnar, was a medical doctor, and one of his cousins, Richard Birkeland, became professor of mathematics at the University of Oslo. Kristian Birkeland received his early education in Norway, at the University of Oslo, was appointed to a position there in 1893, and became full professor at the age of 31. He was elected to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, in 1909.

Birkeland published his first three scientific papers (in mathematics) before he was 20. Among his early contributions to physics w ...