Proposal for a MAA Mathematical Study Tour "Norway: The Land of Abel and Lie"

Norway: The Land of Abel and Lie

I had a wonderful time on the Mathematical Association of America's Mathematical Study Tour to Mexico in 2005. I feel that a Mathematical Study Tour of Norway would be a great idea and I proposed a tour to Norway in 2009 called Norway: The Land of Abel and Lie. After initially being accepted, it eventualy got rejected, but I decided to keep this web page for sentimental reasons, and as a guide for other people who want to explore Norway on their own.

Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829) and Sophus Lie (1842-1899) need no introduction to mathematicians. However, while most mathematicians are virtually unknown to the general public, Niels Henrik Abel was an important figure in Norwegian history. He has been commemorated on stamps three times, on banknotes twice, and once on a coin. There is also a statue of him outside the Royal Castle. The Abel Prize, with its fund of 200 million kroners (about 30 million US dollars), shows clearly how even today Norwegian society values him.

Fortunately for us, both Abel and Lie were born and grew up in some of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of Norway. After the Abel Bicentennial Conference in 2002 there was a tour to Gjerstad, where Abel grew up, and Frolands Verk where he died. After the 150 years anniversary of Lie in 1992, there was a tour to Lie’s birthplace in Nordfjordeid, in the heart of the Norwegian fjords. In this tour we will combine both tours to give you a sampling of some of the most beautiful parts of Norway, while showing you some of the places that were significant to the lives of Abel and Lie.

Note in series IV, 1948-1976 Note in series V, 1978-1985 Memorial coin from 2002

Imagine being able to show your students pictures of yourself in the room where Abel died, next to his grave, at his birthplace, in the garden outside of his family home, and next to the statue of Lie at his birthplace! We will also visit the University of Oslo and Abel's old high school. We may also visit places associated with Ludwig Sylow, Caspar Wessel, Thoralf Skolem, Axel Thue, Viggo Brun and Carl Anton, Vilhelm and Jacob Bjerknes. There will be lectures by Norwegian mathematicians and historians on the lives of Abel and Lie and their impacts on mathematics and Norwegian society.

Statue of Abel outside the Royal Castle in Oslo Monument at his birthplace in Finnøy Monument at Gjerstad Statue in Oslo

We hope to make this coincide with the prize presentation of the Abel Prize.


Day 1: Arrival in Oslo. Wreath laying ceremony at the Abel statue in front of the Royal Castle.

Day 2: The Abel Prize ceremony. Visit to the University of Oslo and Oslo katedralskole, Abel's old high school. Sightseeing.

Day 3: The Abel Lectures. Sightseeing.

The Viking Ship Museum The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History The Fram Museum
Akershus Castle and the Resistance Museum The Vigeland Park The Munch Museum

Day 4: Visit to Vestby, the birthplace of Sylow. Then on to Halden where Sylow taught high school for most of his live. Visit to Fredriksten and Rød Herregård. Overnight in Halden.

Day 5: Ferry across the Oslo Fjord from Strømstad to Larvik. Visit to the Abel Centre in Gjerstad and his family home, the vicarage at Gjerstad. After lunch we head for the beautiful city of Risør. After a breathtaking boat cruise, we stay overnight at Resort Lyngørporten.

The view from Abel's family home The boat cruise to the hotel

Day 6. We first visit the old iron mine Frolands Verk where Abel died and the churchyard where he is buried. Then on to Stavanger where we spend the night.

The room where Abel died Abel's grave

Day 7: Sightseeing in Stavanger.

Day 8: Visit to Finnøy, the birthplace of Abel. Ferry from Stavanger (16.30) to Bergen (20.35). Overnight in Bergen.

Day 9: Sightseeing in Bergen. Bryggen, the old wharf, has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1979. Visit to the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. Hurtigruta (the Coastal Express) from Bergen (20.00).

Day 10: Arrival at Geirangerfjord (13.00). Geirangerfjord was added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 2005. We then head for Lie's birthplace of Nordfjordeid, where we will stay for the next three nights at the Sophus Lie Conference Center.

Geiranger fjord

Day 11: Day trip to the Briksdal glacier.

Day 12: Day trip to the ruins of Selje Monastery on the island of Selja.

Selje Monastery on the island of Selja

Day 13: Bus to Oslo (Gardemoen Airport) where we stay overnight.

Day 14: Departure.

Helmer Aslaksen
Department of Mathematics
National University of Singapore

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