Nils Gustaf Dalén

Nils Gustaf Dalén, Swedish physicist and winner of the 1912 Nobel Prize for Physics.
This image is in Public Domain -- Photo taken by Atelier Jaeger?
¹Nils Gustaf Dalén (1869-1937) was born at Stenstorp in Skaraborg, Sweden on November 30, 1869, the son of a farmer. After his preliminary education, he entered a School of Agriculture to study dairy farming, but he was later advised by Gustaf de Laval, (²the foremost Swedish inventor of the day) who recognized his natural gift for mechanics, to seek a technical education. He prepared himself for the Chalmers Institute at Gothenburg and gained admission in 1892. He graduated as an engineer in 1896.

¹Dalén's inventiveness first showed in his early days on his father's farm when he built a threshing machine powered by an old spinning wheel. He contrived a device to indicate the butterfat content of milk and thereby made his contact with de Laval. On completion of his advanced education, he worked on the construction of a hot-air turbine and related air compressors and pumps. He also invented a pasteurization apparatus and a milking machine.

²Dalén introduced welding using acetylene gas in Sweden in 1902.
Dalén formed the company Dalén & Celsing together with his wealthy fellow student Henrik Celsing. At the same time, he worked for Svenska Carbid & Acetylen (later to become AGA).
²In 1905 when the Pilotage Service needed a new apparatus which could both save the expensive acetylene gas in lighthouses and provide beacons of varying character, Dalén's experiments resulted in the flashing apparatus. It only uses one-tenth as much gas as its predecessor and the light signals can be varied. In 1907 he invented the ingenious sun valve which automatically switches on lighthouse beacons when darkness falls and switches them off at dawn.

¹ His subsequent invention of the sun-valve, which causes a beacon to light automatically at dusk and extinguish itself at dawn, enabled lighthouses to function perfectly and unattended for periods of up to a year. His invention of cylinder filled with a porous mass of asbestos and diatomaceous earth for storage of acetylene reduced considerably the hazards in handling this material and its use in welding became safe. He also invented a mixer for providing a constant and correct balance of gas and air for use in the incandescent mantle and a device for removing broken mantles and replacing them by new ones.

² He had already developed a special porous compound which minimizes the risk of explosions in gas tubes (the AGA compound, 1906) and spurred on by his success Dalén continued to experiment.He became president of AGA in 1909.
The unmanned, reliable, low-energy AGA lighthouse which improved safety at sea was an immediate international success.

¹In 1912, whilst testing safety devices on cylinders of acetylene in an outdoor location, and when satisfactory safety precautions had been taken, a sudden explosion seriously injured Dalén and caused the loss of his eyesight. He recovered from his other injuries and overcoming his great incapacity, continued his researches. He was awarded the contract for lighting the Panama Canal and later turned to the field of thermal technics to invent a stove, now in universal use, which maintains cooking heat for 24 hours using only eight pounds of coal.

This image is in Public Domain
photo taken 1926, after accident

²In February 1913 he was back among AGA's management and was to remain the company's president for another 25 years. The telephone, radio, reading out loud, skilled employees and a phenomenal memory enabled him to continue to create and lead the company successfully. Though he himself could no longer travel, AGA could conquer the world market. There are also countless stories about how his four children helped their blind, but determined, father to develop the AGA cooker. A coal-fueled, low energy cooker which could burn for 24 hours without attention. The cooker was viewed as an odd product by the company but was an enormous export success. Launched in 1929, the cooker was Daléns last major invention to reach a wide public. In all he had almost 100 patents pending during his lifetime.

²He was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physics. The citation reads:
"For his inventions of self-operating regulators which in combination with gas accumulators can be used to light lighthouses and light buoys."

¹The Nobel Prize may have been his finest award but their were more, among them the distinctions conferred upon Dalén are:
•In 1913 membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.
•In 1918 he was made an honorary doctor at Lund University.
•In 1919 membership in the Academy of Science and Engineering.
²•He received both the Nordstjärne Order and the Wasa Order.
•Received the Morehead Medal of the International Acetylene Association.
• He took part in debates at the National Society of Economics
•Served on the Lidingö City Council for almost twenty years.

¹Dalén married Elma Persson in 1901. They had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Gunnar, qualified as an engineer and followed his father as a Director of AGA; their younger son, Anders, became a Doctor of Medicine; Gustaf's brother Albin, a famous ophthalmologist, was a Professor at the Caroline Institute.

¹Dalén died on December 9, 1937, in his villa at Lidingö (he was active as company leader until his death).

--click image for larger view --

Villa Ekbacken, the private residence for the Dalén family, built in 1912 close to AGA production plant.
Today the residence for Canada's ambassador in Sweden.

Author Holger.Ellgaard
The copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the following license:
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

²In 1954, the same year as the AGA company celebrated its 50th anniversary, Gösta Folke directed "Victory in the Darkness" a film about Gustaf Dalén, based on Erik Wästberg's biography "Gustaf Dalén - a great Swede."

¹This info is from:
Nobel Prize. Org

²This info is from:


[Lighthouse Page 1] [Lighthouse Page 2]

--- Backgrounds set for you to download ---
[Lighthouse -Background Sets]

[Augustin-Jean Fresnel -- Fresnel Lens] [Lighthouse Lights/Lamps] [The Lightkeeper -- Life and Duties] [History of the Lighthouse]
[Links & Resources]

Different/Unusual/Interesting Looking ... Shaped Lighthouse
[Page 1] [Page 2] [Page 3] [Page 4] [Page 5]
[Page 6] [Page 7] [Page 8] [Page 9] [Page 10]

To download logo click image

            Nothing on this page is for download ----- Copyright Dejaelaine