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200 Kroner 1994, Norway

in Krause book Number: 48а
Years of issue: 1994
Signatures: Norges sentralbanksjef: Torstein Moland (in office 1994-1995), Hovedkasserer: Sylvi Johansen
Serie: Series VII notes (1994-2020)
Specimen of: 1994
Material: Cotton fiber
Size (mm): 144 х 70
Printer: Norges Bank, Oslo (till 2008)

* All pictures marked magnify are increased partially by magnifying glass, the remaining open in full size by clicking on the image.

** The word "Specimen" is present only on some of electronic pictures, in accordance with banknote images publication rules of appropriate banks.

200 Kroner 1994




Repeated image of Kristian Birkeland.


200 Kroner 1994

Kristian Olaf Bernhard Birkeland

The engraving on banknote is made after this photo of Kristian Birkeland of 1902. The photo was made by Polnish phoptographer Ludwik Szaciński de Ravics. Today it is in Oslo museum.

Kristian Olaf Bernhard Birkeland (13 December 1867 – 15 June 1917) was a Norwegian scientist. He is best remembered for his theories of atmospheric electric currents that elucidated the nature of the aurora borealis. In order to fund his research on the aurorae, he invented the electromagnetic cannon and the Birkeland-Eyde process of fixing nitrogen from the air. Birkeland was nominated for the Nobel Prize seven times.

Birkeland was born in Christiania (Oslo today) to Reinart Birkeland and Ingeborg (née Ege) and wrote his first scientific paper at the age of 18. Birkeland married Ida Charlotte Hammer in May 1905. They had no children and, due to Birkeland's preoccupation with his work, they divorced in 1911.

Suffering from severe paranoia due to his use of Veronal as a sleeping aid, he died under mysterious circumstances in his room in the Hotel Seiyoken in Tokyo while visiting colleagues at the University of Tokyo. A post-mortem revealed that Birkeland had taken 10 g. of veronal the night he died, instead of the 0.5 g. recommended. The time of death was estimated at 7am on 15 June 1917. Some authors have claimed that he committed suicide. "On the nightstand lay a revolver".

Birkeland organized several expeditions to Norway's high-latitude regions where he established a network of observatories under the auroral regions to collect magnetic field data. The results of the Norwegian Polar Expedition conducted from 1899 to 1900 contained the first determination of the global pattern of electric currents in the polar region from ground magnetic field measurements. The discovery of X-rays inspired Birkeland to develop vacuum chambers to study the influence of magnets on cathode rays. Birkeland noticed that an electron beam directed toward a magnetised terrella was guided toward the magnetic poles and produced rings of light around the poles and concluded that the aurora could be produced in a similar way. He developed a theory in which energetic electrons were ejected from sunspots on the solar surface, directed to the Earth, and guided to the Earth's polar regions by the geomagnetic field where they produced the visible aurora. This is essentially the theory of the aurora today.

Birkeland proposed in 1908 in his book The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902–1903 that polar electric currents, today referred to as auroral electrojets, were connected to a system of currents that flowed along geomagnetic field lines into and away from the polar region. Such field-aligned currents are known today as Birkeland currents in his honour. He provided a diagram of field-aligned currents in the book, and this diagram was reproduced on the back of the Norwegian 200 kroner 7th series banknote in the in the lower right corner, and his terrella experiment is shown on the front at the left with a portrait of Birkeland on the right. The book on the 1902–1903 expedition contains chapters on magnetic storms on the Earth and their relationship to the Sun, the origin of the Sun itself, Halley's comet, and the rings of Saturn.

Birkeland's vision of what are now known as Birkeland currents became the source of a controversy that continued for over half a century, because their existence could not be confirmed from ground-based measurements alone. His theory was disputed and ridiculed at the time as a fringe theory by mainstream scientists, most notoriously by the eminent British geophysicist and mathematician Sydney Chapman who argued the mainstream view that currents could not cross the vacuum of space and therefore the currents had to be generated by the Earth. Birkeland's theory of the aurora continued to be dismissed by mainstream astrophysicists after his death in 1917. It was notably championed by the Swedish plasma scientist Hannes Alfvén, but Alfvén's work in turn was also disputed by Chapman.

Proof of Birkeland's theory of the aurora only came in 1967 after a probe was sent into space. The crucial results were obtained from U.S. Navy satellite 1963-38C, launched in 1963 and carrying a magnetometer above the ionosphere. Magnetic disturbances were observed on nearly every pass over the high-latitude regions of the Earth. These were originally interpreted as hydromagnetic waves, but on later analysis it was realized that they were due to field-aligned or Birkeland currents.

The scale of Birkeland's research enterprises was such that funding became an overwhelming obstacle. Recognizing that technological invention could bring wealth, he developed an electromagnetic cannon and, with some investors, formed a firearms company. The coil-gun worked, except the high muzzle velocities he predicted (600 m/s) were not produced. The most he could get from his largest machine was 100 m/s, corresponding to a disappointing projectile range of only 1 km. So he renamed the device an aerial torpedo and arranged a demonstration with the express aim of selling the company. At the demonstration, one of the coils shorted and produced a sensational inductive arc complete with noise, flame, and smoke. This was the first failure of any of the launchers that Birkeland had built. It could easily have been repaired and another demonstration organized.

However, fate intervened in the form of an engineer named Sam Eyde. At a dinner party only one week later, Eyde told Birkeland that there was an industrial need for the biggest flash of lightning that can be brought down to Earth in order to make artificial fertilizer. Birkeland's reply was, "I have it!" There were no more attempts to sell the firearms company, and he worked with Eyde only long enough to build a plasma arc device for the nitrogen fixation process. The pair worked to develop the prototype furnace into a design that was economically viable for large-scale manufacture. The resulting company, Norsk Hydro, hugely enriched Norway, and Birkeland then enjoyed adequate funding for research, his only real interest.

The Birkeland–Eyde process is relatively inefficient in terms of energy consumption. Therefore, in the 1910s and 1920s, it was gradually replaced in Norway by a combination of the Haber process and the Ostwald process.

In 1913, Birkeland may have been the first to predict that plasma was ubiquitous in space. He wrote: "It seems to be a natural consequence of our points of view to assume that the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds. We have assumed that each stellar system in evolutions throws off electric corpuscles into space. It does not seem unreasonable therefore to think that the greater part of the material masses in the universe is found, not in the solar systems or nebulae, but in 'empty' space."

In 1916, Birkeland was probably the first person to successfully predict that the solar wind behaves as do all charged particles in an electric field: "From a physical point of view it is most probable that solar rays are neither exclusively negative nor positive rays, but of both kinds". In other words, the Solar Wind consists of both negative electrons and positive ions.

As a scholar with wide interests, Birkeland joined the control commission of NSFPS (= Norwegian Society For Psychic Research). The 299 members of the society included, by 1922, people like prime minister Gunnar Knudsen, as well as a wide range of doctors, professors and shipowners. The society arranged circles experimenting with dancing tables and automatic writing, but attracted more attention arranging controlled experiments with invited foreign mediums. In 1912 it was the medium Etta Wriedt from Detroit, famous for her "spirit trumpet", who was exposed as a fraud. Mrs Wriedt's "trumpet" should have been speaking with the "spirit voice" of, among others, Hypatia, but in Norway the "trumpet blows" were exposed as explosions produced by potassium and water. Professor Birkeland exclaimed on that occasion, "I'm supposedly against all witch burnings, but a teeny weeny one in honour of Mrs Wriedt would not have been in the way.

The northern lights rising upwards toward the North Star are the central feature of the background.

There are well-known constellations such as Little Bear (Ursa Minor) and the Big Dipper.


Birkeland's "Terrella" (1900), where he produced artificial northern lights is depicted in the area containing the watermarks. Birkeland demonstrated that when plasma escapes from the sun and travels through space, the earth's magnetic field compresses it on the daylight side of the earth and stretches it into a tail on the night side, ultimately producing the northern lights.

The snow crystal symbolises winter, the time of year when the northern lights are most visible, and includes a number of security features. (

Denominations in numerals are in top left corner and lower right. In words at the bottom.


200 Kroner 1994

The reverse side of the note is based on the northern lights that are visible during the day. Whereas the northern lights on our side of the earth are visible along the coast of northern Norway at night, they are visible over Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, during the day.

Discovery of the auroral oval and the northern lights on the day side of the earth is one of the most sensational results of modern space research.

Birkeland Currents

The illustrations in the lower right hand corner of the note depict Birkeland's thoughts about the orientation of electric currents in connection with the northern lights. Currents near the auroral arcs flow parallel to the ground, while those that are higher up flow along the earth's magnetic field lines. These currents are called Birkeland Currents.

Kristian Birkeland predicted the auroral electrojets in 1908. He wrote: "the currents there are imagined as having come into existence mainly as a secondary effect of the electric corpuscles from the sun drawn in out of space, and thus far come under the second of the possibilities mentioned above". And the picture represents those, in which the current-directions at the storm-centre are directed westwards, and 50b those in which the currents move eastwards".

Denominations in numerals are in lower left and top right corners. In words at the bottom.


Obverse designer: Sverre Morken.

Reverse designer: Arild Yttri.