The 10 Best Norwegian Inventions

Norway might not be the country that has the highest rate of innovations, but we do still come up with some innovate and unique ideas from time to time.

There are some sectors where Norway is one of the most important countries, but there’s no doubt that our neighbors in Denmark and Sweden are much more innovative than we are.

With all that said, there are some awesome Norwegian inventions that are really great. Let’s take a closer look at the 10 best Norwegian inventions, and one common misconception where a certain item is commonly believed to be from Norway. .

1) The cheese slicer

The cheese slicer (ostehøvel) is probably one of the most famous Norwegian inventions that is still considered “typical Norwegian”. It’s something that every house and apartment has in Norway, but it’s not that common in other parts of the world. However, it should be!

This utensil is absolutely amazing for slicing cheese, and will give you a thin and perfect slice of cheese every time you use it. We Norwegians use it for both regular white cheese as well as brown cheese, and it works just fine on any type of firm or semi-firm cheese.

If you don’t own a cheese slicer, make sure to get one. Your life will be much easier with one of these, so they are absolutely worthy of being considered one of the best Norwegian inventions.

The invention of the cheese slicer took place in 1925 by Thor Bjørklund. After only two years, the cheese slicer was mass-produced and sold both in Norway and the other Nordic countries. It only took a few more years before the rest of Europe got the hold of it, and it’s still very popular in many European countries.

For some reason, its use never really took of in the rest of the world. This is a bit surprising since regular white cheese is popular around the world.

Cheese slicer
A cheese slicer. Photo by M.M.Minderhoud / CC BY-SA 3.0.

2) Aerosol cans

The aerosol can is most likely the Norwegian invention that most people have used, because you will have used this if you ever used any type of spray can. These cans are used for spray paint, hairspray, disinfectants, cleaning agencies and a variety of other things.

The inventor of the aerosol can was called Erik Rotheim, and he filed a patent for it back in 1927. It took a long time to perfect the canister, so they didn’t really become popular until much later, but the first aerosol can was made almost 100 years ago.

I definitely consider the aerosol can to be one of the most important inventions from Norway, simply because it’s so useful. Imagine how different the world would be without them! While we might do fine in our everyday life, the aerosol cans are insanely useful for certain industries that handles gaseous chemicals.

Aerosol cans
Aerosol cans used for painting. Photo published with permission.

3) Salmon sushi

Wait, what? Sushi on the list of Norwegian inventions? You read that right!

Japan is the country of original sushi, and they are the inventors of most types of sushi. However, Japan didn’t eat salmon sushi until the 1980s when a Norwegian delegation visited the country and attempted to get Japan to import Norwegian salmon.

These guys lobbied for different types of salmon use in Japanese cuisine, and eventually struck gold with the salmon sushi. This has since evolved to be a staple of most sushi places, both in Japan, Norway and other countries around the world.

The project is still very important for Norway, because Japan is still a big importer of Norwegian salmon to use for their sushi.

Salmon sushi
Salmon sushi. Photo published with permission.

4) The Tripp-Trapp chair for children

The Tripp-Trapp chair for children is insanely popular in both Norway and plenty of other countries in the world, and it’s arguably one of the best children’s chairs. It has a base that can be moved to fit perfectly for the child using it, so you won’t have to change their chair to a brand new model as they grow older.

The original Tripp-Trapp chair was produced and designed by a Norwegian company called Stokke. There are plenty of replicas of the original chair these days, but it’s for sure a Norwegian invention. The success has lead Stokke to be one of Norway’s biggest brands, and I’m sure most of you have either owned or seen a real Tripp-Trapp chair.

5) Slalom

Slalom is a popular winter sport where you are skiing down a hill while going in a zigzag pattern between poles that have been put along the course. It’s a very popular sport here in Norway, but it has also acclaimed international fame, and is part of the Winter Olympics.

This sport originated in Norway, and was popular here for a long time before it garnered international attention. It is now a relatively popular sport among the winter sports.

Slalom
Slalom is a popular type of downhill skiing in Norway. Photo published with permission.

6) Aquavit

Aquavit (akkevitt in Norwegian) is a type of spirit that was originally invented in Norway in the 15th century. It’s a unique spirit that is distilled from grain or potatoes, then flavored with herbs.

We Norwegians tend to drink aquavit on Christmas Eve, but not really on many other occasions. It’s a popular spirit in many places, especially in Germany.

7) The harpoon cannon

The modern harpoon cannon is one of Norway’s many inventions, and this type of weapon was invented to make whaling easier. This huge harpoon is filled with explosives that explodes on impact, and it’s a highly efficient tool for killing whales.

The big benefit of this is that the whale dies much faster, meaning that it won’t be able to carry the ship along with it as it attempts to free when being hunted.

It’s not the invention that Norwegians are most proud of, but it’s still an important invention that shaped modern whaling.

Norway is still whaling by the way, and whale meat is still sold in Norwegian stores. This is a pretty controversial thing, since whale meat and whaling is completely banned in most countries in the world. The harpoon cannon is still used for this hunt, but it’s far more efficient than the original.

Harpoon cannon
Harpoon cannon. Photo by Guinnog / CC BY-SA 3.0.

8) Object-Oriented Programming

Object-Oriented programming languages have really changed the world a lot, and the first of these languages was actually developed by two Norwegian programmers called Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard.

The first object-oriented language was called Simula, and while it’s not used today (it’s 50 years old!), it was the predecessor to programming languages like C, C++, Java, Python, MATLAB, Javascript and many other object-oriented programming languages.

9) Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Let’s stay in the computer world for a minute, and remember the fact that it was a Norwegian person who invented the first version of CSS. If you’ve ever dabbled with making a website or tried your hand at online web design, then you are probably aware that CSS is completely vital. Pretty much all websites online uses CSS these days!

I’m not saying that the current version of CSS can be regarded as being Norwegian, but the first version of the language was definitely a Norwegian invention.

10) The Birkeland–Eyde process of synthesizing nitrogen fertilizer

Nitrogen based fertilizers are the most used fertilizer today, and it’s estimated that this type of fertilization has been one of the main driving factors behind the explosive growth in the human population. And the Birkeland–Eyde process is part of this!

The Birkeland–Eyde process itself is a type of reaction where you can convert nitrogen from the air into nitrate, which can then be converted to fertilizer. I’m not going to go into too many details, but this reaction really changed how easy and cost-effective it was to produce nitrogen based fuel at the time.

The process itself was developed in 1093, and it’s not used any longer. However, it was an important step in early days of chemical engineering.

Another part of the legacy from the Birkeland–Eyde process by Kristian Birkeland and Sam Eyde is the creation of the company that is known as Yara today. This is still one of Norway’s biggest companies, having a turnover of over $10 billion USD per year. They are still producing nitrogen based fertilizer, but in far more efficient forms than what they did one hundred years ago.

Yara fertilizer
Fertilizer made by Yara. Photo published with permission.

The paper clip is actually not from Norway

When researching for this article, I came across many people that claimed that the paper clip was one of Norway’s most famous inventions. However, this is only a myth. While the Norwegian inventor Johan Vaaler did invent and file a patent for a paper clip, the original paper clip as we know and love was already invented and used.

The problem was that this paper clip was not yet in Norway, so Vaaler did invent something new. He just didn’t know that there was already a better product on the market.

And for reference, the paper clip Johan Vaaler invented was inferior to the the real paper clip because it lacked the last turn of the wire. There’s also a lot of controversy around the fact that Vaaler worked in a patent office, making some people claim that he didn’t really invent the paper clip himself.

Paper clips
Paper clips. Photo published with permission.

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