Kristian Birkeland Facts

Kristian Birkeland Facts
Kristian Olaf Bernhard Birkeland (December 13, 1867 to June 15, 1917) was a Norwegian scientist. He was the first to explain the phenomenon of the Aurora borealis. He invented the electromagnetic cannon and the Birkeland-Eyde process of fixing nitrogen from the air. Birkeland was nominated for the Nobel Prize seven times.
Interesting Kristian Birkeland Facts:
Kristian Birkeland was born in Christiania, Norway which is today known as Oslo.
In 1898 he became a full professor of physics at the University of Oslo.
Birkeland established several observatories in the northern regions of Norway to collect magnetic field data and the 1899 Norwegian Polar Expedition collected the first global pattern of electric currents at the poles from ground magnetic field measurements.
He developed vacuum chambers to study the influence of magnets on x-rays.
He discovered that an electron beam aimed at a magnetized sphere produced rings of light around the poles and deduced that that was the source of the aurora.
He developed the theory that the electron beams were ejected from the sun.
In 1908 he wrote The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903 in which he explained that polar electric currents flow along the geomagnetic field lines into and away from the poles.
This idea was not accepted for over 50 years but a 1967 probe proved his theory correct.
The currents are named Birkeland currents in his honor and a diagram of field-aligned currents from his book appears on Norwegian 200 kroner bill.
In order to fund his aurora research Birkeland built an electromagnetic cannon but the velocities were not as he predicted and it was not a commercial success.
He discovered its use as a plasma arc device which was used as a nitrogen-fixing device in the manufacture of artificial fertilizer.
He and engineer, Sam Eyde, started the highly-successful company, Norsk Hydro, for the large scale manufacture of potassium nitrate.
In 1913 he wrote the greatest mass of the universe is found in what was then considered "empty space."
He pioneered the study of charged-particle beams and in 1916 he was the first to predict that solar wind behaves like charged particles in an electric field.
He died from an overdose of the sleeping aid, Veronal, while visiting the University of Tokyo.


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