The Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics was established July 1st 1934 and was one of the first departments at the Blindern Campus of the University of Oslo.
Professor Svein Rosseland.
Professor Svein Rosseland founded the department with financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Rosseland was originally professor at the old Observatory in Oslo. From 1929 he had a longer stay at Harvard Observatory, leaving a great impression among the astronomers. He was offered a professorship, but decided to contact the University of Oslo before making any decision. It was proclaimed essential to keeping Rosseland in Norway with sufficient resources. Rosseland was acclaimed worldwide for his scientific contributions, and still is today.
When Rosseland returned to Norway, he worked on establishing a department of theoretical astrophysics in Oslo. The Rockefeller Foundation’s office in Paris was contacted for financial support, and both the University of Oslo Collegium and the Norwegian government (lead my Mowinckel) was convinced about the necessity of such an institute.
15th of April 1931, The Rockefeller Foundation in New York announced that they would support the establishment of an institute for theoretical astrophysics with 105 000 USD, with an additional 15 000 USD for buying scientific equipment.
When the department was opened July 1st 1934, it was as the world’s first Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics. The establishment was widely covered by the media. The financial support tagged scientific equipment was used to construct a calculator that could solve differential equations. The machine was the largest of its time, and was used by researchers until the mid 50’s.
The Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics remains the only place in Norway where you can obtain higher education within astronomy. The department is small, and the atmosphere among students and employees is characterized as enjoyable and informal.
Today, both observational and theoretical research is conducted at the department, mainly within the fields of cosmology and solar physics. Additionally, multidisciplinary projects are run with other departments, as well as international collaboration with research institutions abroad.