Who Was Gustav Dalén? Life and Achievements of the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish Physicist


Who Was Gustav Dalén? The Life and Achievements of the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish Physicist, who was blinded by his love for physics

Imagine that you dedicate your whole being to the field you work in. Imagine that you are working so passionately that you do not know that it will blind you after years.. In such a dream, it is highly likely that you will witness a Gustaf Dalén reality. (And of course, there is the genius of Beethoven with his music in exquisite architecture that he produced but could not hear after a while..)

Gustav Dalén

Gustav Dalén

Who was Gustav Dalén?

Nils Gustaf Dalén was born on November 30, 1869, in Stenstorp, Sweden, the son of a farmer. After his primary education, he entered an Agricultural School to study dairy farming . However, he was encouraged to take a technical education by the Swedish Engineer and Inventor Gustaf de Laval, who later discovered his natural talent for mechanics. He subsequently began to prepare himself for admission to the Chalmers Institute in Gothenburg (Gothenburg), and in 1892 he succeeded in being admitted to this institute. He graduated as an engineer in 1896 and studied under Professor Stodola at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum for a year in Switzerland. spent.

When Gustaf Dalén returned to Sweden, he devoted time to his research in Gothenburg. Then he started his career as a consultant engineer. He started his career fast and became the Technical Chief of Svenska Karbid- och Acetylen AB. In 1901 (Swedish Carbide and Acetylene, Ltd.) he joined the Gas Accumulator Company, a producer and distributor of acetylene (a hydrocarbon), where he would later work as Chief Engineer in 1906. By 1909 the company was reorganized as Svenska Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (AGA) (Swedish Gas Accumulator Ltd.), with Dalén as Managing Director.

However, even when he was working on the farm, he stood out with his innovative production tendencies. Dalén’s creativity was also with him long before he arrived, when he was working on his father’s farm, when he built a threshing machine powered by an old spinning wheel. He developed a device that showed the butter content of milk and thus contacted Laval. After completing his further education, he worked in the construction of a hot air turbine and associated air compressors and pumps. He also invented a pasteurization apparatus and a milking machine.


By 1901, the Dalén company had acquired the patent rights to the invention of dissolved acetylene. Then he started working on automatic flashing beacons for lighthouses. His invention of the solar valve, which causes a lighthouse to turn on automatically at dusk and extinguish by itself at dawn, allowed lighthouses to work perfectly and unattended for up to a year. A cylinder he invented for the storage of acetylene greatly reduced the hazards in handling this material and made the source safe to use. He also invented another device to maintain a stable, correct gas and air balance for use in the incandescent mantle. But in 1912, things were going to go the other way.

The Terrible Accident and the Year of the Nobel Prize

In 1912, while testing safety devices on acetylene cylinders in an open location, a sudden explosion occurred. This explosion seriously injured Dalén and caused him to lose his eyesight. However, even after recovering from his other wounds, he continued his research by overcoming all obstacles. Although Dalén lost his eyesight in an explosion caused by acetylene, a highly flammable hydrocarbon, while measuring the response of accumulators at maximum pressures in 1912, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics later that year. As he was very ill, Dalén was replaced by his brother Albin Dalén, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Karolinska Institute.

Dalén’s Light was also used commercially, as it discredited him but also allowed him to enter literature . They began using lighthouses with acetylene, which produced an extremely bright white light. Dalén continued to develop additional inventions for the use of his new fuel. In this way, it kept the light on only at night, saving energy and prolonging the lifetime of the lanterns.

He was awarded the contract to light the Panama Canal for his work, and then focused on his thermal studies to invent a stove, now in universal use, that retains the cooking heat for 24 hours using only eight pounds of coal. Dalén has been given many privileges for his work. These privileges include membership of the 1913 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the 1919 Academy of Sciences and Engineering. He also showed interest in other fields and participated in discussions at the National Society of Economics. He also served on the Lidingö City Council for nearly two decades.

Gustaf Dalén married Elma Persson in 1901. He had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Gunnar, qualified as an engineer and became director of the AGA after his father; their younger son, Anders, became a Doctor of Medicine; Gustaf’s brother Albin, a renowned ophthalmologist, was a professor at the Caroline Institute. Gustaf Dalén died in his villa in Lidingö on December 9, 1937. Nobel Prize is not mentioned but if you want to know about her daughters: Inga-Lisa Dalén , Anna Maja Dahlén


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