or Olaf Christian krĭs´tyän bēr´kəlän, ō´läv [key], 1867–1917, Norwegian physicist. From 1898 Birkeland was a professor at the Univ. of Christiania (now Oslo). Noted for his work on magnetics, he aided in establishing magnetic observatories in the Arctic and subsequently determined that the aurora borealis was linked to solar magnetic activity. The results of his Arctic expeditions are recorded in The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition, 1902–1903 (tr. 1909). With Samuel Eyde he developed (1903) an electric-arc process (the Birkeland-Eyde process) for nitrogen fixation, which was one of the first processes used in the large-scale manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer from atmospheric nitrogen.
See L. Jago, The Northern Lights (2001).
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