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'You don't know about Norway's mosquitoes!'


A great expedition to Lapland
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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I’ve already talked about a couple of big long vacations in Germany and the European car trip. The third long vacation whilst I was in Cambridge involved an extraordinary trip that I was able to make to the north of Norway in Lappland and to sketch the background I can tell you first of all of who was involved in this and then what happened. Ray Martin and I, who were sharing rooms in Cambridge, had already been to Norway more than once for skiing and so forth. I, as you know, had a fiancée there. She had a sister. The sister had a fiancé so that was the nucleus of the group and one of Kirsten’s friends was a companion for Ray as well, Karen Peach. She joined us. It was a group of six people.

To put the trip in perspective, I have to say that as far as I was concerned it counted as a real expedition. Lappland in the very north of Norway is a very isolated place. To emphasise that let me remind you that Norway is a long thin country. Up the coastline it is as far from the south of Norway to the north, which is the Russian border, as it is from London down to the south of Nigeria. It’s a big country. The second thing is that it crosses right over the top of Europe. It doesn’t go north south. It goes north east right over the top of Sweden, right over the top of Finland to the Russian border and at the Russian border if you look at the longitude it is on the same longitude as Kiev and Alexandria or Cairo in Europe. So it goes the whole way. The other thing obviously about the Norwegian coastline is the superb scenery of fjords, big glaciated gashes into the country which sometimes go so far in that they’re only 10 or 15 miles from the Swedish border.

So how do you get up there and how do you cross when you get there? In those days – and it’s very different nowadays of course – there were a few mountain huts and there were a few telegraph line workers’ huts but by and large there was just a very rough broken track across a land called Finnmarksvidda which was traditionally populated by the Lapps, the Sami people with their reindeer herds and they wandered over these vast uplands. A vidda means an upland plateau.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: Norway, Lapland, Ray Martin

Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011