Christopher Hansteen (26 September 1784 – 11 April 1873) was a
Norwegian geophysicist, astronomer and physicist, best known for
his mapping of Earth's magnetic field.
1 Early life and career
2 Academic career
3 Later life
4 Awards and legacy
5 See also
Early life and career
Hansteen was born in Christiania as the son of Johannes Mathias
Hansteen (1744–1792) and his wife Anne Cathrine Treschow
(1754–1829). He was the younger brother of writer Conradine Birgitte
Dunker, and through her the uncle of
Bernhard Dunker and Vilhelmine
Ullmann, and granduncle of Mathilde Schjøtt,
Ragna Nielsen and Viggo
Ullmann. His mother was a first cousin of Niels Treschow.
The intention was for Hansteen to become a naval officer, but since
his father died when Hansteen was young, this plan did not
materialize. Instead, he attended
Oslo Cathedral School from the age
Niels Treschow was the principal of this school. Hansteen
took the examen artium in 1802, and in 1803 he enrolled at the
University of Copenhagen, where he originally studied law. He later
took more interest in mathematics, estranged by the lack of universal
validity of a country's laws compared to the mathematical laws. He had
also been inspired by the lectures of Hans Christian Ørsted. He was
hired as the tutor of a young noble, Niels Rosenkrantz von Holstein,
who lived at Sorø. Here, he also met his future wife Johanne Cathrine
Andrea Borch, a daughter of professor Caspar Abraham Borch. In 1806 he
was hired as a mathematics teacher in the gymnasium of
In 1807 Hansteen began the inquiries in terrestrial magnetism with
which his name is especially associated. His first scientific
publication was printed in Journal de Physique, following a contest on
magnetic axes created in 1811 by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences
and Letters. In 1813 he was given a research scholarship by the
recently established (in 1811) Royal Frederick University in
Christiania, with a promise of a future academic position. After
marrying Johanne Cathrine Andrea Borch in May 1814, they left for
Norway in the summer. Due to the Swedish campaign against
1814, they opted to travel by sea, and was threatened by a Swedish
privateer as well as seized by a British fregate en route. Reaching
Norway after five days, they settled in the street Pilestredet.
Working as a lecturer from 1814, in 1816 Hansteen was promoted to
professor of astronomy and applied mathematics. He was the editor of
the official Norwegian almanac from 1815, manager of the city
astronomical observatory from the same year and co-director of the
Norwegian Mapping Authority (then known as Norges Geografiske
Oppmåling) from 1817. In 1819 he published a volume of researches
on terrestrial magnetism, which was translated into German under the
title of Untersuchungen über den Magnetismus der Erde, with a
supplement containing Beobachtungen der Abweichung und Neigung der
Magnetnadel and an atlas. By the rules there framed for the
observation of magnetical phenomena Hansteen hoped to accumulate
analyses for determining the number and position of the magnetic poles
of the Earth. In 1822 he co-founded Norway's first journal on
natural sciences, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne. He sat as
editor-in-chief for eight years.
In the course of his research he travelled over
Finland and the
greater part of his own country; and from 1828 to 1830 he undertook,
in company with
Georg Adolf Erman and with the co-operation of Russia,
a government-funded mission to Western Siberia. A narrative of the
expedition soon appeared (Reise-Erinnerungen aus Siberien, 1854;
Souvenirs d’un voyage en Sibérie, 1857); but the chief work was not
issued until 1863 (Resultate magnetischer Beobachtungen). He did
not conclude on the issue at hand, but his work was later completed by
Carl Friedrich Gauss. Shortly after the return of the mission, in 1833
Hansteen moved with his family into the observatory, which was created
from drawings by the architect Christian Heinrich Grosch. A
magnetic observatory was added in 1839.
From 1835 to 1838 he published textbooks on geometry and mechanics,
largely a reaction to his former research assistant Bernt Michael
Holmboe's textbooks. Compared to Holmboe's method of teaching,
Hansteen's books were more practically oriented. After Holmboe wrote a
review of the first textbook for the newspaper Morgenbladet, in which
he advised schools not to use it, a public debate followed, with
contributions from other mathematicians. It has been claimed that this
was the first debate on the subject of school textbooks in Norway.
Holmboe's textbooks proved more lasting, with Hansteen's textbook not
being reprinted. In 1842 Hansteen wrote his Disquisitiones de
mutationibus, quas patitur momentum acus magneticae. He also
contributed various papers to different scientific journals,
especially Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne.
Hansteen was a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and
Letters from 1818 and of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
from 1857, as well as several learned societies in other countries,
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1822) and a Foreign
Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
(1863). He was a member of the board of the Royal Norwegian Society
for Development for many years, and also chaired the board of the
Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry.
For health reasons, Hansteen stopped holding lectures in 1856. In 1861
he retired from active work, but still pursued his studies, his
Observations de l'inclination magnetique and Sur les variations
séculaires du magnetisme appearing in 1865. He left the position
as observatory manager in 1861 as well, but continued as editor of the
Norwegian almanac until 1863 and as director of the Norwegian Mapping
Authority until 1872.
His wife died in 1840. Their daughter
Aasta Hansteen became a notable
women's rights campaigner. He was the paternal great-grandfather of
Kristofer Hansteen and Edvard Heiberg Hansteen; trade unionist Viggo
Hansteen was a later descendant.
Christopher Hansteen died in April
1873 in Christiania, and is buried at Gamle Aker kirkegård. The
funeral took place at the University.
Awards and legacy
Hansteen was appointed a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St.
Olav in 1847, and received the Grand Cross in 1855. He was also
appointed a Grand Cross of the
Order of the Dannebrog
Order of the Dannebrog and a Commander
Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star, as well as other foreign
orders of knighthood. A bust of Hansteen was raised at his observatory
in the 1850s.
Christopher Hansteens vei.
The crater Hansteen and the mountain
Mons Hansteen on the
named after him. In Oslo, the road Christopher
Hansteens vei at
Blindern has been named after Hansteen. In addition,
a street at
Majorstuen was named Hansteens gate, but in 1879 it was
renamed Holmboes gate in honour of Bernt Michael Holmboe. In the
Møhlenpris neighbourhood in Bergen, the street Professor Hansteens
gate was named after Hansteen in 1881.
Scandinavian Scientist Conference
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hansteen, Christopher".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Stubhaug, Arild (2001). "Christopher
Hansteen". In Helle, Knut.
Norsk biografisk leksikon
Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian).
4. Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
^ Lorenz, Astrid. "Conradine Dunker". In Helle, Knut. Norsk biografisk
leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 22 March
^ a b c d e f Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
^ Stubhaug, Arild (25 May 2004). "Den inspirerende læreren".
Forskning.no (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 29
September 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
^ Tvedt, Knut Are, ed. (2000). "Holmboes gate".
Oslo byleksikon (4
ed.). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. p. 195.
^ Hartvedt, Gunnar Hagen, ed. (1999). "Professor Hansteens gate".
Bergen byleksikon (1 ed.). Bergen: Kunnskapsforlaget. p. 377.
ISBN 82-573-1036-0. [permanent dead link]
Fellows of the
Royal Society elected in 1839
Thomas Dyke Acland
Edward Davies Davenport
Henry Mangles Denham
Thomas William Fletcher
William James Frodsham
John T. Graves
Gilbert Wakefield Mackmurdo
Samuel Roffey Maitland
H Alexander Ormsby
George Leith Roupell
Clement Tudway Swanston
James Joseph Sylvester
John Wesley Williams
ISNI: 0000 0000 8200 4662
BNF: cb16984930k (data)