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CSS colloquium: Magnus Vollset, University of Bergen

In the shadow of the Bergen school of meteorology

2019.08.26 | Randi Mosegaard

Date Wed 06 Nov
Time 14:15 15:45
Location G4 (1532-222)

One of the very first studies from the Geophysical Institute in Bergen, published in German in 1917 and in an English translation by the Smithsonian Institution in 1920, presented an integrated account of climate on a planetary scale. What began as Bjørn Helland-Hansen and Fridtjof Nansen's attempt at predicting seasonal variations using ocean surface temperatures, ended with an extensive account of how changes in the energy from the sun would permeate through the global climate system, causing more extreme weather. Colleague Vilhelm Bjerknes, however, argued the conclusions were premature: to achieve scientific progress, one needed to study the exact mechanisms involved, rather than their aggregate outcomes.

This paper will use Helland-Hansen and Nansen's long-forgotten study as a starting point to discuss competing visions for geophysical research in the interwar period. The paper will also show how postwar geophysicists created competing narratives of geophysical progress as a way to argue for the supremacy of their own approaches.


Magnus Vollset is an associate professor in the history of medicine, and a researcher in the history of science at the University of Bergen. The presentation builds his latest book project, "Calculating the World: the history of geophysics as seen from Bergen" (Fagbokforlaget, 2018). Vollset has also worked on the history of meteorology in Norway, and the transnational history of leprosy.

Coffee, tea, cakes and fruit will be served before the colloquium @ 2 pm

Lecture / talk