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Gunnar Nordström : biography

12 March 1881 - 24 December 1923

Gunnar Nordström (12 March 1881 – 24 December 1923) was a Finnish theoretical physicist best remembered for his theory of gravitation, which was an early competitor of general relativity. Nordström is often designated by modern writers as The Einstein of Finland due to his novel work in similar fields with similar methods to Einstein.eva isaksson – suomalainen Einstein: painovoiman teoriaa 1910-luvulla http://www.helsinki.fi/~eisaksso/nordstrom/gunnar.htmlRaimo Keskinen (1981): Gunnar Nordström 1881B1923. Arkhimedes 2/1981, s. 71B84. In Finnish, excerpt http://www.tieteessatapahtuu.fi/797/KESKINEN.pdf

Contributions to theory

During the time in Leiden Nordström solved the field equations for the spherically symmetric charged body, thus extending Hans Reissner's results for a point charge. The metric for a non-rotating charge distribution is nowadays known as the Reissner–Nordström metric. Nordström maintained frequent contact with many of the other great physicists of the era, including Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. For example, it was Bohr's contributions that helped Nordström to circumvent the Russian censorship of German post to Finland, Finland was at the time a grand duchy of the Russian empire.

The theory for which Nordström was arguably most famous in his own lifetime, his theory of gravitation, was for a long time considered as a competitor to Einstein's theory of general relativity which was published in 1915, after Nordström's theory. In 1914 Nordström introduced an additional space dimension to his theory, which provided coupling to electromagnetism. This was the first of the extra dimensional theories, which later came to be known as Kaluza–Klein theory. Kaluza and Klein, whose names are commonly used today for the theory, did not publish their work until the 1920s. Some speculations as to why Nordström's contribution fell into oblivion are that his theory was partly published in Swedish and that Einstein in a later publication referenced to Kaluza alone. Today extra dimensions and theories thereof are widely researched, debated and even looked for experimentally.

Nordström's theory of gravitation was subsequently experimentally found to be inferior to Einstein's as it did not predict the bending of light which was observed during the solar eclipse in 1919. However, Nordström and Einstein were in friendly competition or by some measure even cooperating scientists, not rivals. This can be seen from Nordström's public admiration of Einstein's work, as demonstrated by the two occasions on which Nordström nominated Einstein for the Nobel prize in physics for his theory of relativity. Einstein never received the Nobel prize for the theory, as the first experimental evidence presented in 1919 could at the time still be disputed and there was not yet a consensus or even general understanding in the scientific community of the complex mathematical models that Einstein, Nordström and others had developed. Nordström's scalar theory is today mainly used as a pedagogical tool when learning general relativity.John D. Norton – some lesser known thought experiments in gravitation. http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/papers/einstein-nordstroem-HGR3.pdf

Today there is a limited public knowledge of Nordström's contributions to science even in Finland. However, after his death a number of Finnish physicists and mathematicians devoted their time to the theory of relativity and differential geometry presumably due to the legacy he left. On the other hand, the most notable opponent of general relativity in the Finnish scientific world was Hjalmar Mellin, the previous rector of the Helsinki University of Technology where Nordström held professorship.

Education and career

A picture taken in Helsinki in 1900 of three high school graduates wearing [[student caps, Gunnar Nordström on the left.]] Nordström graduated high-school from Brobergska Skolan in central Helsinki 1899. At first he went on to study mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic institute in Helsinki, later renamed Helsinki University of Technology and today a part of the Aalto University. During his studies he developed an interest for more theoretical subjects, proceeding after graduation to further study for a master's degree in natural science, mathematics and economy at the University of Helsinki (1903–1907).

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine