The Pioneering Norwegian Mathematician

The Pioneering Norwegian Mathematician

Niels Henrik Abel was born in Finnøy, Norway, in 1802, the second of a Norwegian minister’s seven children. His math teacher in Christiania (now Oslo), Bernt Holmboe, raised money from his colleagues to send Abel to the University of Oslo in 1821. Learn more about the pioneering Norwegian mathematician.

In 1824, Abel published his groundbreaking work on the insolubility of fifth degree (quintic) equations, which had been challenging mathematicians for 250 years. But save to money on printing, he had to cut his proof down to six pages, making it difficult to understand.

The Pioneering Norwegian Mathematician
In 1824, Abel published his groundbreaking work on the insolubility of fifth degree (quintic) equations. Photo: UiO

Related: Mathematical Tendencies with Their Influence on Scandinavian Architectural Design

In 1825, he was given a travel scholarship by the Norwegian government, and traveled around Europe. In Berlin, he met August Leopold Crelle, who published a clearer version of Abel’s quintic solution in 1827. While waiting in Paris for another paper to be reviewed, Abel contracted tuberculosis.

You may also like to read: Careers in Higher Education in Scandinavia

Heavenly in debt, Abel returned in 1827 to Oslo, where he tutored schoolchildren while his fiancée Christine Kemp worked as a governess in Froland. Sadly, his health deteriorated and he died in 1829, at the age of just 26, following the sled journey to visit her for Christmas.

The Pioneering Norwegian Mathematician
Niels Henrik Abel died in 1829, at the age of just 26.

Two days after Abel’s death, his fiancée received a letter announcing Abel’s appointment as a professor in Berlin. In 1830 his work was recognized by the Paris Academy; French mathematician Charles Hermite said that in six years, “Abel has left mathematicians enough to keep them busy for 500 years.”

The Abel Prize is awarded on 24 May in Oslo.

The Pioneering Norwegian Mathematician, compiled by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Niels Henrik Abel (National Museum in Oslo)

Previous articleWhy It’s Worth Studying in Scandinavia
Next articleBest Activities to Embrace Spring in Sweden
Avatar photo
Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.