Gleditsch, Ellen (1879–1968)

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Gleditsch, Ellen (1879–1968)

Norwegian president of the International Federation of University Women and the first woman to study at the University of Oslo at which she became professor of chemistry. Born in Mandal, southern Norway, in 1879; died in 1968; awarded licentiate at the Sorbonne, 1912; studied for a year at Yale University; awarded doctorate from Smith College.

Ellen Gleditsch is remembered with pride by the Norwegian branch of the International Federation of University Women, which has established a fund in her name to assist women scholars. She chaired the branch from 1925 to 1928 and was elected president of the International Federation from 1926 to 1929.

Gleditsch was born in 1879 in Mandal, southern Norway, of a distinguished family, whose founder came to Norway from Germany at the end of the 18th century. Ironically, her first cousin Henry, director of Trøndelag Theater during the Nazi Occupation, was shot by the Germans in 1942 for his defense of democratic freedom.

Following in the footsteps of pioneers for women's rights such as Gina Krog , Gleditsch was able to profit by the action of Cecilie Thoresen (1858–1911), the first woman to matriculate at the University of Kristiania in 1882. After qualifying in pharmacy in 1902, Gleditsch worked on radium research as an assistant at the Paris laboratory of Professor Marie Curie from 1907 to 1912, the period during which Professor Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize (1911). After passing her licentiate examination at the Sorbonne in 1912, Gleditsch studied for a year at Yale University before taking her doctorate at Smith College. She then returned to Norway to continue her academic career and became professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Oslo, where she held the chair from 1929 to 1946.

In later years, she researched the history of chemistry, publishing biographies and articles on its practitioners, including Nobel prizewinners Marie Curie and Irene Joliot-Curie . Honorary doctorates were conferred on Gleditsch by the University of Strasbourg and the Sorbonne.


Aschehoug & Gyldendal's Store Norske Leksikon. Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget, 1992.

Lie and Rørslett, eds. Alma Maters døtre (Alma Mater's Daughters). Oslo: Pax, 1995.

Elizabeth Rokkan , translator, formerly Associate Professor Department of English, University of Bergen, Norway