Hamberg, Axel

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Hamberg, Axel

(b. Stockholm, Sweden, 17 January 1863; d. Djursholm, Sweden, 28 June 1933)

geography, geology.

Hamberg’s father, N. P. Hamberg, was a chemist and pharmacologist who became professor in forensic chemistry at the University of Stockholm. The young Hamberg went to high school in Stockholm, entering the university in 1881. Hamberg took his licenciate degree in 1893, his doctorate in 1901, and in the same year became professor of physical geography and historical geology at the university. In 1907 he became professor in geography at the University of Uppsala, where he remained until his retirement in 1928.

At Stockholm, Hamberg had broad training in chemistry, physics, geology, and geography, and was soon attracted to hydrology and glaciology. He took part in Nils Adolf Nordenskjöld’s expedition to Greenland (1883) as hydrologist, and in Alfred Nathorst’s expedition to Spitsbergen (1898), where he gained extensive experience of arctic conditions. He also made an elaborate hydrological survey in Swedish Lapland (1884–1886), especially of the Sarek Mountains, the geology and physical geography of which became the subject not only of Hamberg’s doctoral thesis but of a whole series of scientific papers, written with collaborators. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and was the president of the International Glaciological Commission from 1914 to 1916 and from 1927 to 1930.

Hamberg was a meticulous and careful organizer of expeditions, an enthusiastic and inspiring leader, and a popular teacher. Many aspects of modern glaciology, especially the study of the water-ice budget of glaciers, can be traced back to his research and the research of his pupils. His most valuable scientific work was his introduction of new, exact methods of measurement and new and improved instruments. These innovations, coupled with his hydrological surveys, have had great importance in the development of the hydroelectric power plants in northern Sweden and other boreal regions.


Hamberg’s most important scientific works are Geologiska och fysisk geografiska undersökningar i Sarekfjällen (“Geological and Physical-Geographical Studies in the Sarek Mountains,” Stockholm, 1901); and Naturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen des Sarekgebietes im Schwedich-Lappland, the series of monographs written with collaborators. For a complete bibliography, see H. Köhler, “Axel Hamberg,” in Svensk Geografisk årsbok (1933), 175–184, and G. Aminoff, “Axel Hamberg,” in Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens årsbok (1934), 265–272.

Nils Spjeldnaes