<- Nygaard-Childhood and youth

Childhood and youth


Kristen Nygaard was born on 27 August 1926 in Oslo. He described his background as follows: “I have had the advantage of living in many different worlds. My mother’s family were farmers, my father’s family were city dwellers. My grandfather was an industrial lawyer, my father a painter who got his Masters in classical Greek, Latin and French, and later became a stage director at the theatre in Bergen. […] Another aspect of the war was that work on my uncle’s farm had priority over school. I had to participate in the production of the food we needed to survive. I always wanted to become a scientist, but I also know much about what it is to be a farmer. What is the relevance of what I have said so far for becoming a researcher? Primarily that I am convinced that it is very useful to be exposed to a wide range of different ways of relating to the world. Also, I was extremely fortunate in always being encouraged in my diverse interests, without anyone trying to interfere when I did not want it.” (Nygaard, 1996)
At the age of thirteen, Nygaard wanted to become a scientist, more precisely a professor of astronomy (All the modern astronomers Nygaard read about seemed to be professors) . His interest in astronomy was inspired by a book he found on his parents’ bookshelves. His interests were so intense that in September 1940 some helpful person presented the young Nygaard to the staff at the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Oslo. The people at the institute were very nice to him with one notable exception. “A thin mathematician, 1.95 m on one leg and 2m on the other developed very efficient means of keeping me out of his way.


His name was Jan Vaumund Garwick and he was assistant to the famous Svein Rosseland (further information).”
His ongoing interests in scientific topics are described in the following way: “After I had read the available popular books in the available libraries and learned all the available constellations, I was stuck. To learn more I needed to know mathematics at university level. I turned to botany for a couple of years, and enjoyed it very much. But then I decided that botany was too descriptive (this may be different today), and that I wanted to do a science that needed fantasy and own ideas. I wanted to go back to astronomy as a hobby. I started reading mathematics and immediately got hooked and changed opinion as to the content of my (still definite) future professorship.(further information)
Later he was confronted with a mathematical problem and was dismayed to hear that Garwick was the one who could help. Fortunately, the story took a surprising turn: “A couple of years later I needed to talk with someone knowing what is called meromorphic functions, and got disappointed when I was told that Garwick was the one who could help me out. Anyway, I knocked at his door and explained my errand. It turned out that Garwick was delighted by my visit and he used several hours on me. I could come back whenever I needed it! I remembered how I had irritated him earlier, and used the kind invitation with care” (further information).
It was the same Garwick who helped Nygaard to get a position at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (NDRE) during his compulsory military service and when Nygaard started to work at the NDRE in 1948, his boss was Jan V. Garwick.

[Source: People behind Informatics, Laszlo Böszörmenyi and Stefan Podlipnig]


<- Nygaard-Childhood and youth

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