postcard from sweden – g stands for gustaf dalén

my postcard stamp - text

G stands for Gustaf Dalén -Victory in the Darkness

nobel prize - nobelprize org  The Nobel Prize in Physics 1912
Gustaf Dalén was too sick to receive the price in person,
so his brother Albin Dalén accepted the prize.

Gustaf_Dalén_1926 - wikimedia org

Nils Gustaf Dalén (1869 –1937) was the founder of the AGA company and inventor of the AGA cooker and the Dalén light. In 1912 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his “invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys”.

When the 19-year-old farmer’s son Gustaf Dalen from”Skräddargården” farm, in Stenstorp – Sweden started of as frown, nobody knew that he would become a world famous inventor and Nobel Prize winner.
However, the experiments with solventilen nearly cost him his life and made him blind.

Gustaf_Dalén_1895 - libees com

After his preliminary education, he entered a School of Agriculture to study dairy farming but he was later advised by Gustaf de Laval, who recognized his natural gift for mechanics, to seek a technical education. He prepared himself for the Chalmers Institute at Gothenburg and gained admission in 1892. He graduated as an engineer in 1896 and spent a year in Switzerland.

His studies completed, Dalén formed the company Dalén & Celsing together with his wealthy fellow student Henrik Celsing. At the same time, he worked for Svenska Carbid & Acetylen (later to become AGA). The partners invented the Brilliant gasworks which they sold to the town of Ängelholm. This work involved a new way of producing and using acetylene gas, mainly for lighting. It was also Dalén who introduced welding using acetylene gas in Sweden in 1902.

aga lidingö factory - aga-museum nl

He became president of AGA in 1909. The unmanned, reliable, low-energy AGA lighthouse which improved safety at sea was an immediate international success. In 1911, for example, the company received an order for the then unimaginable sum of US$ 150,000 for a lighthouse system for the entire Panama Canal.

On September 27th, 1912 Gustaf Dalen was hit by a severe accident. He experimented with heated glass bottles to see how much pressure they could withstand. One of the bottles exploded and he was badly injured. He survived, but his sight could not be saved.

aga logo - aga se

A few weeks after the disaster, Gustaf  got the news that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The blindness was difficult to accept, but in 1913 came Gustaf Dalen back to AGA and led the company for twenty-five years. His invention desire was adamant and in the 1920s he developed a new fuel-efficient household cooker, AGA cooker, which became world famous.

His creative genius and boundless optimism laid the foundation for the company’s development and international success.

AGA cooker lives on

Between 1924 and 1929, Gustaf Dalen a heat-efficient stove that could burn unattended for 24 hours. AGA cooker works on the principle of blue flame, ie. smokeless combustion, and its heat efficiency is unbeatable. In 1934 it was sold worldwide and later manufactured in a dozen countries. In 1957, after competition from electric cookers, AGA ceased production.
The British company Rangemaster Group PLC manufactures still AGA cooker. 1931 cost cooker $130. Today you have to pay at least $3.000. But an AGA is still an icon among stoves and is popular with many celebrities, such as Sharon Stone, Kate Winslet and Jamie Oliver.

I have grown up with AGA cooker – it warmed up the whole house  – fantastic stove.  If I had a big enough kitchen I would have one today too.

The most famous invention

Lighthouses were AGA’s real core business until AB Pharos sold in the early 1980s. The product is still within Pharos Marine / Automatic Power, which today is the world leader in aids to navigation.
Gustaf Dalén most famous invention is probably solventilen. It consists of a central blackened light absorbing rod surrounded by three shiny, light-reflecting metal rods. When the day dawns absorbs the blackened rod light energy and gets a slightly higher temperature than the shiny rods. It will be a bit longer than the shiny bars, and activates a device that shuts off the gas and beacon light.

Blockhusudden - wikipedia org

The AGA lighthouse “Blockhusudden” close to Stockholm, initially set up in 1912. When the lighthouse was electrified in 1980 it was discovered that the sun valve had been working continuously since 1912 without the need for an overhaul.

Dalén married Elma Persson in 1901. They had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Gunnar, qualified as an engineer and followed his father as a Director of AGA; their younger son, Anders, became a Doctor of Medicine; Gustaf’s brother Albin, a famous ophthalmologist, was a Professor at the Caroline Institute.

Dalén died in 1937 in cancer, at his villa Ekebacken in Lidingö outside Stockholm. Villa Ekbacken, the private residence for the Dalén family, built in 1912 close to AGA production plant. Today the residence for Canada’s ambassador in Sweden.

He invented the light that save lives at sea, but he had to live the rest of his life in the darkness.

“A lighthouse is not interested in who gets its light!
It just gives it without thinking!
Giving light is its nature!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

gustaf dalen stamps - delcampe net

I chosen the song in itself as my cloud instead of the artist – because it all about to bringing light to our world.

“Tänd ett ljus” (“Light a Candle”), written by Niklas Strömstedt and Lasse Lindblom, is a song that was recorded by the Swedish band “Triad” in 1987. The end of the song gives Christmas and New Year’s greetings in different languages. The song is sung a cappella, with finger-snapping in the background. The single topped the Swedish singles chart in January 1988. This is not the original version.

“Light a candle and let it burn, never let hope disappear,
it’s dark now, but it gets brighter again.
Light a candle for everything you believe in, for this planet we live on.
Light a candle for the children of earth.”

lighthouse - fineartamerica com

Text and information have been supplied by, and – which without this post wouldn’t be possible – Thank you!
Images provided by and thanks to:
Gallery 1;
Gallery 2;
Gallery 3; &

21 thoughts on “postcard from sweden – g stands for gustaf dalén

  1. Oh Vivi – how fascinating! I had heard of the name Dalen of course, but knew nought of the background! Back tonight for another read!! And I did not realize the famous and so highly praised AGA cooker was a Swedish invention! As I am passionate about architecture and design I follow a number of the British ‘house/home’ shows on Foxtel. Would be rich if I got a dollar every time I have seen some would be house buyer or critic wax lyrical about having a real AGA in their kitchen 🙂 ! Thanks for posting!!!!!!

    • Thank you, Eha … the AGA cooker is amazing, I wish I had one – but what was most amazing about Gustaf is that he lost his sight while working on the lighthouse light .. that have been saving lives at sea for over 100 years – he gave light to others and lived in total darkness himself.
      That is magic.

  2. A fascinating post, Viveka. What a genius was Gustaf! He was a very brave man, doing those dangerous experiments, and we certainly have a lot to thank him for. He so deserved the honour of being awarded the Nobel Prize. Nice song. 🙂 Happy Sunday to you. xx

    • Syliva, thanks a million – yes, Gustaf was a remarkable man … and even after the accident that made him blind I just carried on with flashing lights – that we would be totally lost without today. I’m proud over that I’m Swedish .. over all the inventions that has come out of our small country during the time. Like the peacemaker. Yes, he was truly worth the Nobel price.
      I really like the song too. Thanks for your lovely comment.
      Next postcard will be about a sexy sportsman. *smile

    • Colleen, it’s a little bit strange that everybody react to the AGA stove – but not to the lighthouses light – that is such massive invention.
      I’m teaching you .. I inform you *laughing. I’m not a good teacher, but I’m very good communicator.

      • You are a great communicator. I think maybe we react more to the AGA because it is so much more familiar to “more” of us. We don’t see many lighthouses around the middle of America. 🙂 But AGA’s are EVERY where. 🙂

      • …. Colleen, you could be so right … never thought about it.
        And how have AGA the company over there too .. they do most of your industrial gas. Massive company today.
        I would love to have a AGA stove, but my kitchen is far too small. My grandma’s old AGA would fit perfectly, but it was fired with wood.

      • Do you ever think back to the things that existed in our childhoods, kind of wishing we had held on to them? I wish I had taken better care of some things and brought them forward with me.

      • Yes, I do … like the old sawing machine – with the pedel – Singer. Wonder what happened to it ???? Sold probably.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.