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Gustaf Dalén was a Swedish Nobel Laureate who designed several products, including automated regulators, the AGA stove, and the Dalén light. He was also the founder of the AGA company, an industrial gas company that was later absorbed by Linde AG. Best known as the inventor of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for lighting lighthouses and buoys, he earned the nickname “the benefactor of sailors” for his work, for which he won the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physics. Born the son of a farmer, he enrolled in a school of agriculture as a young man to study dairy farming. He developed a milk-fat tester to determine the quality of milk, which he demonstrated to renowned inventor Gustaf de Laval, who recommended Dalén to pursue a career in engineering. Thus, he enrolled at Chalmers University of Technology and afterwards at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to study engineering. Throughout his technical career, he created numerous inventions and performed critical work for the Gas Accumulator Company, which marketed acetylene gas. There was a growing demand for maritime communication facilities during this time period, and his development of what became known as the Dalén light revolutionized maritime navigation by increasing the effectiveness of lighthouses.

Childhood & Adolescence

Nils Gustaf Dalén was born in Stenstorp, Västergötland, Sweden on 30 November 1869, the fifth child of Anders Johannson and Lovisa Andersdotter Dalén. Each child took on their mother’s maiden name.
From an early age, he had a talent for invention. He invented the automatic threshing machine as a child, driven by the ancient spinning wheel.

Following his primary education, he enrolled in a dairy farming school. He also worked on the family farm during this time, which he developed to include a market garden and a dairy.

In 1892, he devised a milk-fat tester to determine the quality of milk. He demonstrated his creation to renowned inventor Gustaf de Laval, who saw the young man’s promise and recommended he pursue a career in engineering.

Dalén enrolled in the Chalmer Institute of Technology in Göteborg after selling his farm and graduated as an engineer in 1896. Following that, he spent a year studying at the famed Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Gustaf Dalen’s Career

He returned to Sweden following the completion of his studies and worked for a brief spell at the De Laval Steam Turbine Company in Stockholm. He assisted in the development of hot air turbines, compressors, and air pumps while there.

In 1900, he formed a partnership with a former classmate, Henrik Cleaning. The duo marketed their inventions through this corporation, one of the most notable being the invention of the Brilliant gasworks, which they sold to the municipality of ngelholm.

He was named Technical Chief of Svenska Karbid- och Acetylen A.B. in 1901. (Swedish Carbide and Acetylene, Ltd.). He accepted a post as Chief Engineer at the Gas Accumulator Company (a manufacturer and distributor of acetylene) a few years later in 1906.

Svenska Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (AGA) was renamed in 1909, and Dalén was appointed to the role of Managing Director. Sweden was witnessing a rising need for improved marine communication technologies during this time period. At the time, lighthouse technologies were inadequate, and Dalén began work on producing automatic flashing beacons for lighthouses.

He experimented with acetylene throughout his career, a highly explosive hydrocarbon gas that may be utilized as a fuel for lighthouse illuminations. He produced the Dalén light with this new fuel, which also took use of another of his discoveries, the sun valve. AGA began developing lighthouse equipment based on his efforts that operated without the use of electricity and were thus exceedingly reliable.

In 1922, he patented his invention, the AGA cooker, which he had developed over the previous few years with the assistance of his wife and family. The cookers were initially imported to the United Kingdom in 1929 and quickly gained favor. Dalén was an extremely productive inventor, receiving over 100 patents during his lifetime.

His Significant Works

Gustaf Dalén’s innovations in lighthouse technology transformed maritime navigation. His inventions, the sun valve, and the Dalén light enabled the manufacture of extremely efficient and reliable lighthouse equipment that operated independently of any form of electricity.

Awards and Accomplishments

Gustaf Dalén won the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physics for “inventing automatic regulators for use in connection with gas accumulators for the illumination of lighthouses and buoys.”

In 1913, he was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, and in 1919 to the Swedish Academy of Science and Engineering. He also earned the International Acetylene Association’s Morehead Medal.

Personal History and Legacies

Gustaf Dalén married Elma Persson, his childhood sweetheart, in 1901. They had four children, two sons, and two girls.

In 1912, he was blinded in an acetylene explosion while conducting an experiment. He did not allow his condition, however, to impede his scientific interests, and remained involved in research until his death.
He died on 9 December 1937, at the age of 68, of cancer.

Estimated Net worth