Kristine Bonnevie – Norway’s First Female Professor

Kristine Bonnevie, born in Trondheim in 1872, became the first female member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in 1911 – 100 years after the establishment of the University of Oslo. Her fields of research were cytology, genetics and embryology. Bonnevie started studying zoology in 1892, which she later on switched to biology. She completed her doctoral dissertation in 1906.

In 1912, the Norwegian magazine ‘Folkebladet’ wrote in a portrait of her: ‘It is only during the holidays that dr. Bonnevie can work on her scientific studies. During holidays she takes her work with her to Rondane (a mountain range). She has two cabins up there. (…). One is named the “Snefugl” (“Snow bird”), a place visited by many of her students.’

Between 1900 and 1914, she made significant contributions in research on cell division and chromosomes.

In 1908 Bonnevie published an article that contributed to the establishment of the modern concept of the structure of chromosomes. It took 25 years for her interpretation to be proven right. Kristine Bonnevie became involved in human genetics in 1912, and two years later, Bonnevie embarked on a new field of research: Investigations of inheritance in man. Her studies emphasized dwarfism, polydactyly and twin research in isolated communities in mountainous and fjord regions. Bonnevie knew that the population of Norwegian mountain societies was relatively isolated and thus a fit material for studies of heritable disposition for twin births, as well as for certain abnormalities. (Photo shows the 100th anniversary of the University of Oslo in 1911.)

In 1916, In order to give these time-consuming investigations an institutional anchoring, Bonnevie, with three other professors established a University Institute for Research on Heredity. She remained its director until her retirement. This university institute made it easier to separate the scientific aspects of human genetics from the more politically infested area of racial hygiene.

Kristine Bonnevie never had children of her own. Instead, her concern was for the welfare of the students. In 1916, on her initiative, several student homes for young women were established.

She was honored with numerous awards for her research, and the Biology Faculty at the University of Oslo is named after her.

In 1948, Kristine Bonnevie died in Oslo.


By: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Source: Wikipedia, Whonamedit

Photos: On top: Wikipedia, below: Narve Skarpmoen

Categories: Culture, History

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