Birkeland, Kristian

Birkeland, Kristian or Olaf Christian

(krĭs`tyän bēr`kəlän, ō`läv), 1867–1917, Norwegian physicist. From 1898 Birkeland was a professor at the Univ. of Christiania (now Oslo). Noted for his work on magnetics, he aided in establishing magnetic observatories in the Arctic and subsequently determined that the aurora borealisaurora borealis
and aurora australis
, luminous display of various forms and colors seen in the night sky. The aurora borealis of the Northern Hemisphere is often called the northern lights, and the aurora australis of the Southern Hemisphere is known as the southern
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 was linked to solar magnetic activity. The results of his Arctic expeditions are recorded in The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition, 1902–1903 (tr. 1909). With Samuel Eyde he developed (1903) an electric-arc process (the Birkeland-Eyde process) for nitrogen fixation, which was one of the first processes used in the large-scale manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer from atmospheric nitrogen.

Bibliography

See L. Jago, The Northern Lights (2001).

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