Svein Rosseland
Svein Rosseland was a Norwegian
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 astrophysicist and a pioneer in the field of theoretical astrophysics.


Svein Rosseland was born in Kvam
Kvam is a municipality in the county of Hordaland, Norway. The parish of Vikør was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 . Parts of Strandebarm were merged with Kvam on 1 January 1965...

, in Hardanger
Hardanger is a traditional district in the western part of Norway, dominated by the Hardangerfjord. It consists of the municipalities of Odda, Ullensvang, Eidfjord, Ulvik, Granvin, Kvam and Jondal, and is located inside the county of Hordaland....

, Norway. Rosseland grew up the youngest of nine siblings. He went to his final exams in Haugesund
is a town and municipality in the county of Rogaland, Norway.-Location:Haugesund was separated from Torvastad as a town and municipality of its own in 1855. The rural municipality of Skåre was merged with Haugesund on January 1, 1958. Haugesund is a small municipality, only 73 km²...

 in 1917 and then went to the University of Oslo
University of Oslo
The University of Oslo , formerly The Royal Frederick University , is the oldest and largest university in Norway, situated in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The university was founded in 1811 and was modelled after the recently established University of Berlin...

. After only three semesters at the University he left in 1919 to work as an assistant professor at the meteorologist Vilhelm Bjerknes at the Bergen School of Meteorology
Bergen School of Meteorology
The "Bergen School of Meteorology" is a school of thought which is the basis for much of modern weather forecasting.Founded by the meteorologist Prof...

. In 1920 he went to the Institute of Physics (now the Niels Bohr Institute
Niels Bohr Institute
The Niels Bohr Institute is a research institute of the University of Copenhagen. The research of the institute spans astronomy, geophysics, nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum mechanics and biophysics....

) in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, where he met Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

 and other prominent physicists, and where he wrote two seminal papers. He spent 1924–1926 as a Rockefeller Fellow at the Mount Wilson Observatory
Mount Wilson Observatory
The Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 5,715 foot peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles...

 in Pasadena, California
Pasadena, California
Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although famous for hosting the annual Rose Bowl football game and Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena is the home to many scientific and cultural institutions, including the California Institute of Technology , the Jet...


In 1927, Rosseland earned a PhD. from the University of Oslo. As a professor at the University of Oslo from 1928 to 1964, he built up and headed academics at the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (Institutt for Teoretisk Astrofysikk). Rosseland was a key participant when the University of Oslo built the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in 1934, using funding from the Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent philanthropic organization and private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. The preeminent institution established by the six-generation Rockefeller family, it was founded by John D. Rockefeller , along with his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr...

. Between 1929-30 he was a guest professor at the Harvard College Observatory
Harvard College Observatory
The Harvard College Observatory is an institution managing a complex of buildings and multiple instruments used for astronomical research by the Harvard University Department of Astronomy. It is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and was founded in 1839...

. In 1934 he founded the journal Astrophysics Norvegica, published by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society based in Oslo, Norway.-History:The University of Oslo was established in 1811. The idea of a learned society in Christiania surfaced for the first time in 1841. The city of Throndhjem had no university, but had a learned...

. In 1936 he published his textbook Theoretical Astrophysics, which contained numerous original contributions. Rosseland was instrumental in the effort behind the building of the Oslo Analyzer
Oslo Analyzer
Oslo Analyzer was a differential analyzer type of computer, built in Norway from 1938 to 1942. It was the largest computer of its kind....

, built in 1938 and for some time was the world's most powerful differential analyzer.

With the German occupation of Norway in World War II, he fled the country and went to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 where he was appointed professor at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

. In 1943 he went to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 to work with the development of radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 by the British Air Defense Ministry
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 and later at the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

, where he work on underwater explosions. He was also a consultant for the U.S. Time Corporation, a company that later evolved into the Norwegian-owned company Timex Group USA. In the war's final years, he worked on military research at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...


Rosseland returned to Norway in 1946. In the postwar period he was involved in the development of the Norwegian research policy and was among those involved in the creation of the Institute for Energy Technology
Institute for Energy Technology
Institute for Energy Technology was established in 1948 as the Institute for Nuclear Energy . The name was changed in 1980. Its main office is at Kjeller, Norway, and slightly under half of the institute’s activities are based in Halden...

 which was established in 1948 and Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences which was founded during 1955. He was also the driving force behind the creation of Harestua Solar Observatory
Harestua Solar Observatory
Harestua Solar Observatory is a solar observatory near Harestua in the municipality of Lunner, Oppland, Norway.It was used for solar research purposes from 1954 to 1986, and was subordinated the University of Oslo. From 1987 it was used for public courses, eventually run by astronomer Knut Jørgen...

 located at Gunnarshaugen in Oppland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sør-Trøndelag, Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Akershus, Oslo and Hedmark. The county administration is in Lillehammer. Oppland is, together with Hedmark, one of the only two landlocked counties of Norway....

, which was inaugurated in 1954.


In 1957 he was decorated Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. The crater Rosseland
Rosseland (crater)
Rosseland is a lunar impact crater on the far side of the Moon. It lies less than one crater diameter to the northeast of Carver, and about the same distance to the west of the larger Roche. To the northwest lies the smaller Coblentz....

 on the Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 is named after him, as is the Rosseland mean opacity
Opacity (optics)
Opacity is the measure of impenetrability to electromagnetic or other kinds of radiation, especially visible light. In radiative transfer, it describes the absorption and scattering of radiation in a medium, such as a plasma, dielectric, shielding material, glass, etc...

. The Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo is housed in "Svein Rosseland's House". In honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Svein Rosseland Centenary Symposium was held at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters is a learned society based in Oslo, Norway.-History:The University of Oslo was established in 1811. The idea of a learned society in Christiania surfaced for the first time in 1841. The city of Throndhjem had no university, but had a learned...

 in Oslo during June 1994. A bust of him was also erected at Steinsdalsfossen
Steinsdalsfossen is a waterfall 2 kilometers west of Norheimsund, Hardanger in western Norway....

 near his home in Norheimsund
Norheimsund is the municipal administrative centre of Kvam, Norway. The village is located on the northern side of the Hardangerfjord, about 80 km from Bergen. The waterfall Steinsdalsfossen, as of 2006 the 6th most visited natural tourist attraction in Norway, is located near Norheimsund. In...


Selected works

  • On the Internal Constitution of the Stars, 1925
  • The Principle of Quantum Theory, 1930
  • On the Stability of Gaseous Stars, 1931
  • Astrophysik auf atomtheoretischer Grundlage, 1931
  • Theoretical Astrophysics, 1936
  • Jorda og universet. Matematisk geografi, 1940
  • The Pulsation Theory of Variable Stars, 1949

Other sources

  • Randers, G. Svein Rosseland 50 År ( Norsk Populær-Astronomisk Tidsskrift , vol. 3, pp. 33-35, 1945)
  • Randers, G. Rosseland, Svein (Norwegian Biographical Lexicon, vol. 12, pp. 1-2 , 1946)
  • Randers, G. and M. Schwarzschild Professor Svein Rosseland (Astrophysics Norvegica, vol. 9, pp. 7-9, 1964)
  • Elgarøy, Ø. and Ø. Hauge, Svein Rosseland. Fra hans liv og virke (Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, Univ. of Oslo, 1994)
  • Holst, Per A. Svein Rosseland and the Oslo Analyzer (IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 18(4):16-26, 1996)

External links

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