Famous Norwegian People: Norwegian Artists, Scientists, Leaders, Musicians, Politicians and Athletes
In this Country Profile
Since the days of the Vikings, Norwegians have been explorers so it is no wonder that there are several explorers coming from Norway. There are also several famous skiers, as Norway introduced skiing to the western world. Included in the list of famous Norwegians are artists in different disciplines – art, music, theater and movies. There are also Norwegians whose inventions are still being utilized today and some that have made historic discoveries in the field of medicine.
:: List of Famous People from Norway ::
His full name is Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen and he was born on the 16th of July in 1872. He was undisputedly the first person to reach the North and South Poles and also the first explorer to traverse the Northwest Passage, a sea route passing through the Arctic Ocean. He navigated the route from 1903 to 1906, an exploration that had been attempted earlier by several others including John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Henry Hudson and Christopher Columbus. The route passes along the northern coast of North America through the waters in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. He studied medicine due to a promise made to his mother who wanted him away from the shipping industry but he quickly quit school at 21 years of age after his mother died to give in to his longing to be a sea explorer. He learned different survival skills from tribes he met during his exploration, including the handling and use of sled dogs, use of skis and the wearing of animal skins rather than the heavier woolen parkas. He disappeared in the middle of 1928 while attempting to rescue a crew coming from the North Pole. It was believed that that plane he was in crashed into the Barents Sea due to thick fog, although his body was never found.
Leif Erikson’s name is sometimes spelled as Leifr Eiríksson, following the Old Norse spelling. He was born circa 970 AD in Iceland, the son of Erik Thorvaldsson, more popularly known as Erik the Red. Leif’s father was an outlaw and his grandfather, the father of Erik the Red, Thorvald Asvaldsson was also an outlaw. Leif’s father was an explorer from Western Norway.
Leif was regarded as the very first person from Europe to land in North America, except Greenland, about 5 centuries earlier than Christopher Columbus. He was said to have established a Norse settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows in Vinland, later known as the northern apex of Newfoundland in Canada.
The United States celebrates October 9 as Leif Erikson Day, commemorating the first organized immigration of Norwegians to the United States aboard the ship named Restauration. The ship came from Stavanger in Norway and reached the New York Harbor on the 9th day of October in 1825.
Thor Heyerdahl was born on October 6, 1914 in Larvik. He became famous for his Kon-Tiki expedition aboard a pae-pae raft made from balsa wood that he used to sail 8,000 kilometers from South America to the islands of Tuamotu, the largest chain of atolls in the world located in the Pacific Ocean and inhabited by Polynesians. The journey took 101 days and ended on August 7, 1947 when the raft smashed on the reef on Raroia in Tuamotu. Heyerdahl was an adventurer and ethnographer and had a background in geography and zoology. He made several expeditions into other countries including the Easter Island and Azerbaijan.
He constructed and experimented with boats made from papyrus reeds that came from Ethiopia’s Lake Tana but failed in his first attempt, the boat named Ra, due to some modifications made by the crew. His second experimental boat was names Ra II, made from totora or giant bulrush sedge growing in Lake Titicaca. His boat was able to sail from Morocco to Barbados. He experimented also on building a boat he named the Tigris, again using reeds. The boat was constructed in Iraq and successfully made its 5-month journey up to Djibouti. He and his crew burned the boat in protest against the war raging in that part of Africa.
Otto Neumann Knoph Sverdrup
Otto Sverdrup was a sailor and Arctic explorer born in Bindal, Helgeland on October 31, 1854. Not as celebrated as Roald Amundsen and other Norwegian explorers, he was still considered a hero in Norway. His father was a farmer and as the eldest son he was supposed to inherit his father’s properties but he opted to work for his uncle and became a seaman. A relative of his mother bought a steamboat and Sverdrup became its captain and met Alexander Nansen, a lawyer and brother of Fridtjof Nansen, also an explorer. Sverdrup later joined Fridtjof in his exploration of Greenland. Fram, a ship built and owned by Fridtjof came under Sverdrup’s command and he and his crew charted and names fjords and peninsulas on the western shores of Ellesmere Island, located in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a Canadian Territory. They spent three winters there from 1899 to 1902 and discovered the islands of Amund Ringnes, Ellef Ringnes and Axel Heiberg. The three islands were known as the Sverdrup Islands collectively. Like Amundsen, he and his crew were able to survive the harsh winters applying the Inuit survival skills. There were able to chart 260,000 square kilometers of the Canadian territory and these were mapped by Gunnar Isachsen, Sverdrup’s cartographer. His explorations resulted in 35 academic publications. Although the islands, which Sverdrup claimed for Norway, were ceded to Canada, the Canadian government bought Sverdup’s records of his explorations for $67,000, which secured his family’s future as he died two weeks after he signed the deal. Sverdrup died on November 26, 1930. The records were once archived in the National Archives of Canada but these are currently archived at Norway’s National Library.
Kristian Olaf Birkeland
Kristian Birkeland was born on December 13, 1867. As a scientist, he was noted to be the first person to clearly explain about the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis. He was the inventor of the electromagnetic cannon. And he was also credited for inventing the process of fixing nitrogen to create artificial fertilizers, called the Birkeland-Eyde process. He made several experiments and established observatories under the regions where the Aurora Borealis occurs to collect data on magnetic field. He developed vacuum chambers to study the magnet’s influence on cathode rays. He experimented with magnetized model balls called terrellas and found out that an electron beam when directed to a terrella will move toward the magnetic poles and produced rings of light around the magnetic poles. He concluded that the same is true with the occurrence of the Aurora Borealis, developing a theory where the electrons that were ejected from the sunspots were directed to earth toward the polar regions by a geomagnetic field thus producing the visible and colorful play of lights. He developed an electromagnetic cannon that failed in a demonstration because the targeted velocities were not reached. He later created another version he called the aerial torpedo, which also failed though it led to an astounding success in creating the process for making artificial fertilizer.
Birkeland was suffering paranoia and was taking Veronal to help him sleep. While visiting colleagues in Tokyo, he accidentally took 10g of the drug instead of the recommended dosage of 0.5g and died from an overdose on June 15 1917.
Vilhelm Friman Koren Bjerknes
Vilhelm Bjerknes, born on March 14, 1862 in Christiania was a meteorologist and a physicist who had been exposed early to fluid dynamics as he worked as an assistant to his father, Carl Anton, who had earlier conducted mathematical analysis and discovered the analogy between oscillating and pulsating bodies in fluid and the magnetic and electric actions at a distance. The young Vilhelm devised several instruments to demonstrate the relationship between electricity and magnetism. He continued working on several experiments while attending school and became an assistant to Henrich Hertz who was then working on electromagnetic resonance. Vilhelm continued to delve into the theories of electromagnetism and thermodynamics while he was a professor of mathematical physics and applied mechanics at the University of Stockholm. He contributed primitive equations used on climate models that provided the inspiration for Carl-Gustav Arvid Rossby and V. Walfrid Ekman to apply his theories on a large scale basis for motions of the atmosphere and oceans, leading to the modern method of weather forecasting. A crater on Mars as well as a crater on the moon were named Bjerknes in his honor. He died on April 9, 1951.
Ivan Giæver is a physicist and a Nobel Prize in Physics winner, an award he shares with Brian Josephson of Wales and Leo Esaki (Reona Esaki) of Japan for their discoveries on the tunneling formula in solids (quantum tunneling). He was born on April 5, 1929 in Bergen. He is a professor-at-large at the University of Oslo, the president of Applied Biophysics and also an institute professor emeritus at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a privately-owned research university in Troy, New York.
Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen
Gerhard Hansen, physician, was born on July 29, 1841 in Bergen, Norway. He was the one who identified the Mycobacterium leprae that causes leprosy. He studied medicine at the University of Oslo, which was called the Royal Frederik’s University then and earned his degree in 1866. He worked with Daniel Cornelius Danielssen in 1868 to study leprosy that was plaguing Norway. It was initially thought that leprosy was hereditary although Hansen gave the conclusion through his epidemiological studies that it was a specific disease that occurred due to particular cause and traveled to Vienna and Bonn for training. It was in 1873 when he identified the leprosy bacterium, although he failed to identify the Mycobacterium leprae as bacteria so he was not able to get the much needed support for further research.
Six years later he gave tissue samples to Albert Neisser, a German physician who discovered the strain of bacteria that causes gonorrhea. Neisser was able to stain the leprosy bacterium and announced that he discovered it in 1880. Whatever politics were conducted during their time, leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease in honor of its discoverer.
Anne Stine Ingstad
Dr. Ingstad was an archeologist born on February 11, 1918. She was born in Lillehammer. She and Dr. Helge Ingstad, her husband, discovered a Viking settlement through their archeological digs in Newfoundland and Labrador between 1961 and 1968. The settlement was in L’Anse aux Meadows and the remains they found there were from a Norse settlement dating back to the 11th century and included cooking pits, boathouses, a forge and sod houses. The settlement is now part of the National Historic Site of Canada and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rasmus Jonassen Sørnes
Rasmus Sørnes was born on March 22, 1893. He was a radio technician, an inventor and an avid clockmaker. He had several inventions to his name but only a few of his inventions were patented. He constructed his first astronomical clock and a large reflecting telescope in the early 1930s. His fourth and final astronomical clock was the most complicated clock compared to clocks of the same kind. He finished creating it in 1967, using his own tools and his own funds. It was a marvel of art fusion, electromechanical technology and exquisite craftsmanship that he only worked on during his spare time. It was engraved and had silver and gold plating. Everything in that clock was handmade except for the pendulum. The clock featured Julian and Gregorian calendars, the locations of the moon and the sun in the zodiac, incorporated local time with daylight savings time, with sidereal time as well as GMT. It also included leap year, corrections on the lunar and solar cycles, local sunset and sunrise, phases of the moon, eclipses, sunspot cycles and tides. Amazingly it also included a planetarium with the 248-year orbit of Pluto and the 25,800-year period of precession of the earth’s axis or the polar ecliptics. His astronomical clock was exhibited initially at the Time Museum in Illinois then moved to the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology. In 2002 Sotheby’s sold it to an anonymous buyer. Tor Sørnes, the inventor of the keycard lock is his son.
Kjetil André Aamodt
The most decorated Alpine ski racer in history, Kjetil Aamodt was born in Oslo on September 2, 1971. Aamodt is an all-around Alpine skier who has several distinctions. He is one of only five male Alpine skiers that have won a World Cup race in all its 5 disciplines. He has won 21 individual World Cup events and has five gold medals in the World Championship. He won a total of eight Olympic medals, the only Alpine skier to achieve that feat. Four of his Olympic medals are gold medals he won in 1992 (1), 2002 (2), and 2006 (1). He has two silvers and one bronze medal he won in Lillehammer and one another bronze from the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. Aamodt announced his retirement from the sport on January 6, 2007.
Bjørn Erlend Dæhlie
Bjørn Erlend Dæhlie is a successful businessman and a retired Norwegian cross-country skier. He has won eight Olympic gold medals and nine gold medals in the Nord World Ski Championships. His feats make him the most winning World Champion and Winter Olympics champion cross-country skier of all time. His total medal tally for the Olympic and World Championships is 20 medals, which he won from 1991 to 1999. He measured the highest Vo2 max at 96 ml/kg/min during his career. Upon retirement he became an established fashion and real estate businessman. His real estate investments are worth more than 25 billion kroner. He also has his own signature ski apparel business. The Salomon Nordic System Pilot Bindings, a system that holds or clips the toes of the skier’s boots to the skis were invented by Dæhlie.
Thor Hushvod is the first Norwegian to lead the Tour de France and the first Scandinavian to win the cycling road race in the World Road Championship. Hushvod was born in Grimstad on January 18, 1978. He is a professional road bicycle racer, currently riding for Garmin-Cervélo but will be moving to BMC Racing Team starting 2012. He is basically known for sprinting and time trialing and for having the most stage wins in Grand Tours for a Scandinavian. He is the Norwegian and World Road champion for 2010.
Sonja Henie, born on April 8, 1912 was a bemedalled figure skater. She had won Olympic and World titles than had not been surpassed by a ladies figure skater. She won the European Championships six times from 1931 to 1936. Henie won the World Championships a record ten times form 1927 to 1936 and became the Olympic Ladies Singles Champion three consecutive times in 1928, 1932 and 1936. Sonja Henie also became a movie star and at the height of her career received one the highest salaries paid in Hollywood.
Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg was born on June 15, 1834 in Bergen. He was born to a musical family and his mother was his first piano teacher. He showed great talent at an early age and violinist Ole Bull, a family friend recognized his musical potential and convinced his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory to study under Ignaz Moscheles. Grieg was 15 at that time. Although he enjoyed studying he did not like the discipline imposed by the school. He achieved good grades except for the organ, a prerequisite for students of the piano. He debuted as a concert pianist in 1861 in Sweden, graduated in 1862 and gave his first concert in Bergen in 1862. Franz Liszt was instrumental in giving Grieg the chance to get a travel grant to go to Rome in 1870. Liszt and Grieg met and discussed Grieg’s Violin Sonata 1. On their second meeting they looked over Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Liszt gave Grieg valuable advice on orchestration. Grieg’s famous works are his Piano Concerto in A minor and his incidental or background music for the play Pee Gynt by Henrik Ibsen. His incidental music included the In The Hall of the Mountain King and Morning Mood.
Morten Harket (vocals), together with Pål Waaktar (guitars) and Magne Furuholmen (keyboards) make up the 1982 popular new wave/synthpop Norwegian group a-ha. Morten Harket is the founder of the band, which gained international success during the 1990s up to 2000s. Harket was born on September 14, 1959. As a vocalist, Harket is known to have an extraordinary vocal range that some claimed to span 5 octaves. He is capable of what was described by Sylvia Patterson of NME as the greatest falsetto in the history of pop music. In their single Summer Moved On, released in 2000, Harket was able to hold a note for 20.2 seconds.
The band, a-ha had released 9 albums and had sold 36 million copies and 35 million singles around the world. Most popular of their earlier releases were the songs Take on Me and The Sun Always Shines on TV, with Hunting High and Low their best-selling album.
Mona Grudt Bittrick
Mona Grudt was born in a place called Hell in Stjørdal, Norway on April 6, 1971. In 1990 Mona was crowned Miss Universe, the first for Norway. Hell actually translates to luck in English. During her reign as Miss Universe, she appeared in the film series Star Trek: The Next Generation where she played the part of Ensign Graham. Mona was the last Miss Universe who went with Bob Hope on his United Service Organizations (USO) tour. She is now the editor of Ditt Bryllup, a wedding magazine in Norway.
Her full name is Liv Johanne Ullman, a Norwegian born in Tokyo, Japan on December 16, 1938. Her father, Viggo Ullman was an aircraft engineer. She grew up in Trondheim and spent a part of her childhood in Canada during WWII. An actress and a film director, Liv Ullman was a Golden Globe award winner and had been nominated for a BAFTA Award, Academy Award and Palme d’Or. Ullman was one of the muses of famed director Ingmar Bergman and her works with the director turned her into one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood.
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