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Niels Ryberg Finsen

Niels Ryberg Finsen

BornDecember 15, 1860
Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
DiedSeptember 24 1904 (aged 43)
Copenhagen, Denmark

Niels Ryberg Finsen (December 15, 1860 – September 24, 1904) was a Faroese/Danish physician and scientist. In 1903 he became the first Danish Nobel laureate. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology "in recognition of his contribution to the treatment of diseases, especially lupus vulgaris, with concentrated light radiation, whereby he has opened a new avenue for medical science" [1].


The early years

Niels Finsen was born in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, as the 2nd oldest of four children of Hannes Steingrim Finsen and Johanne Fröman. The family had moved to Tórshavn in 1858 when his father was given the position of Landfoged of the Faroe Islands. In 1864 when Niels was four years old his mother died, and his father remarried his mother's cousin Birgitte Kirstine Formann, with whom he had six children. In 1871 his father was made Amtmand of the Faroe Islands. Niels Finsen got his early education in Tórshavn, but was in 1874 sent to the Danish Boarding school Herlufsholm, where his older brother Olaf Finsen also was a student. Niels had, unlike Olaf, a very difficult stay at Herlufsholm culminating with a statement from the Principal which claimed Finsen to be "a boy of good heart but low skills and energy". A statement that stands in sharp contrast with the later work and research of Niels Finsen. As a consequence of his low grades he was enrolled in his father's old school, Lærði skólinn, in Reykjavík in 1876. While studying there his grades improved greatly.

Studies in medicine

In 1882, Niels Finsen moved to Copenhagen to study medicine at the University of Copenhagen, from which he graduated in 1890. Following graduation, he became a prosector of anatomy at the University of Copenhagen. After three years, he quit this post to devote himself fully to his scientific studies. In 1898 Finsen was given a professorship and in 1899 he became a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog.

The Finsen Institute was founded in 1896, with Niels Finsen as its director. It was later was merged into Copenhagen University Hospital and currently serves as a cancer research laboratory that specializes in proteolysis.

In 1889, Niels Finsen became enganged to Ingeborg Balslev (1868–1963) and they where married on the 29 December 1892.

Illness and death

From the mid 1880s and onward, Niels Finsen's health began to fail. He had symptoms of heart trouble and suffered from ascites and general weakness. This sickness disabled his body but not his mind, and in spite of having to spend his last years confined to a wheelchair, he continued to make great contributions to medicine.


The Finsen Institute at Copenhagen University Hospital is named in his honor, and in Tórshavn there is a memorial to Niels Finsen in Tórshavn, as well as one of the city's main streets bearing his name.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Niels_Ryberg_Finsen". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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