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En forskerskole bygges – Odd Hassel og strukturkjemien 1925–1943

e.r.benum@iakh.uio.no

Edgeir Benum, f. 1939, cand.philol. 1967, professor ved Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie (IAKH), Universitetet i Oslo.

Med utgangspunkt i kummerlige forhold i den vitenskapelige periferien

av Europa ble, i løpet av en tjueårsperiode, en forskningsgruppe og en forskerskole som måtte regnes med i internasjonal strukturkjemi bygd opp i Oslo. Forfatteren søker å kaste lys over hvordan dette kunne skje. Han behandler den rollen en markert lederskikkelse, Odd Hassel – som vendte tilbake til Norge etter opphold ved ett av Europas ledende naturvitenskapelige forskningssentra – spilte i denne prosessen. Og han drøfter hvordan betingelsene for forskning gradvis ble endret både gjennom internasjonale kontakter og gjennom bearbeidelse av hjemlige betingelser, fram til et markert forskningsgjennombrudd i 1943. Dette gjennombruddet var starten på en utvikling som skulle gi Hassel Nobelprisen i 1969.

The making of a research school. Odd Hassel and structural chemistry 1925–1943

In this article, the author explores how a ‘research school’ was created in Oslo during the 20-year period leading up to WWII. The leading figure was Odd Hassel, who introduced the discipline of structural chemistry in Norway, and who, in 1969, was to receive (together with Derek Barton) the Nobel Prize for his studies of cyclohexane and for having developed conformational analysis. Hassel, then 28 years old, returned to Oslo from Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft in Dahlem in 1925, but met conditions that did not favour advanced scientific work in his field – a situation greatly different from the conditions he had known in Berlin-Dahlem.

The author describes how, from humble beginnings, a scientific milieu that came to enjoy high international reputation gradually developed. He focuses on local conditions for the interchange of scientific ideas, the role of laboratory space and scientific instruments, teaching as a research strategy, and the value of formal academic status, as well as on the significance of an international exchange of ideas, experiences, technical innovation and chemical substances. Finally, he traces the international reorientation of the group during the pre-war years, i.e. from predominantly German to mainly British and American contacts, and how the networks then newly established were disrupted by the outbreak of WWII. Still, a major scientific breakthrough occurred in 1943, during the German occupation, but because of the war it remained largely unknown to the outside world. As soon as the war was over, a determined effort was made to make the scientific results known and accepted in the international scientific community.

Keywords: Conformational analysis · history of chemistry · Odd Hassel · research schools
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