Dominated by Scandinavians? Ja, javisst!

January 7, 2008

In fact, Swedes and Norwegians populate local DC by one-quarter to one-third

By Lynda Jensen

A spot check of ancestry for local cities reveals an interesting portrait of ethnic heritage.

To no one’s surprise, more than one-quarter to nearly one-third of local residents are of Norwegian or Swedish descent, according to numbers from the 2005 US Census. See breakdown.

Scandanavians register heavy numbers in Cokato (30 percent) and Dassel (37 percent, as well as Kingston (26 percent) and Darwin (24 percent).

There are also pockets of Finnish people in Cokato (20 percent), and Kingston (23 percent).

This being true, local residents can lay claim to a rich Scandinavian and Finnish heritage

When in comes to Scandinavians, numerous inventions are credited to many famous Norwegians and Swedes.

Such inventions include everything from dynamite to paperclips. A sample of inventions is as follows, courtesy of www.scandinavica.com:

• the wrench, developed by Johan Petter Johansson from Sweden in 1892

• the modern ball bearing, a bearing where the roll bodies consist of balls, was constructed in 1907, by Sven Wingquist from Swedish company Svenska Kullagerfabriken (SKF)

• dynamite. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel patented this powerful explosive that allowed the construction of tunnels, roads and railways since the 19th century.

Nobel is also known as the founder of the Nobel Prize, an award given for outstanding contributions to mankind in the fields of science, literature, and peacekeeping activities.

• the Celsius or Centigrade thermometer, the international standard for thermometers, invented by Anders Celsius from Sweden in the 18th century.

• the propeller, so critical to naval maneuvering – invented by Swede John Ericsson, who was designer of the Union ironclad ship the Monitor in the Civil War. Two members of the ironclad’s crew were also Swedish: M. P. Sunstrum, assistant engineer, and seaman Hans Anderson.

• cheese slicers, invented by Norwegian carpenter Thor Bjørklund, who did not like the way his wife cut cheese, so, he started using one of his workshop tools. Everybody loved his cheese slicer and he patented his invention in 1927.

• gas turbines, invented by Aegidius Elling, Norwegian engineer, who built a revolutionary gas turbine in 1903 that would be used from offshore oil drilling on to aeronautical applications.

• pacemakers. Swedish physician Rune Elmqvist developed the first pacemaker to be inserted by operation, and surgeon Åke Senning carried out the first surgery in 1958. Later, in 1975, Finn Seppo Säynäjäkangas and his company Polar Electro started producing small and low-cost heart rate monitors, a major international success in the sports markets.

• paper clips. Norwegian Johan Vaaler. He invented the ordinary office paper clip in 1899.

There are many other famous Scandinavians, according to www.scandinavica.com:

• Sondre Norheim, the father of modern skiing
• Hans Christian Andersen
• astronomer and physicist Anders Celsius
• Niels Bohr, author of the hydrogen atom theory
• Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA
• Thor Heyerdahl
• explorer Leif Ericson

What about Finns?

Strong concentrations of Finnish people can be found in Cokato and Kingston.

Finnish engineers and companies have made notable contributions with such products as mobile phones, icebreakers, cruise liners, lifts, paper machines, sailing yachts, compasses, frequency transformers, rock drills, as well as Internet encryption systems and numerous other products of forestry, engineering, and information and communications technology.

A sample of famous Finnish people is as follows:

• Hockey player great Jari Kurri, who finished his career as the highest scoring European-born player in NHL history with totals of 601 goals, 797 assists, and 1,398 points. He is the first Finn to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

• Race car driver Mika Pauli Häkkinen, who was a two-time Formula One champion.

• Nobel prize winner Frans Eemil Sillanpää, who was one of the most famous Finnish writers. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1939; the first Finn to do so.

• Grand Prix motorcyle road racer Jarno Saarinen, the “Flying Finn,” is the only Finn to have won a road racing world championship.

The birth name Jarno become very popular in Italy of many newborn boys in the ‘70s because of him. One of them is Jarno Trulli, the present Formula-1 driver. Saarinen remains the only Finn to have won a road racing world championship, winning 15 Grand Prix during his career.

• Opera soprano Karita Mattila, who has won numerous international awards. In 2004, Mattila’s first appearance in Salome at the Metropolitan Opera in New York prompted the New York press to write: “When the history of the Metropolitan Opera around the time of the millennium is written, Karita Mattila will deserve her own chapter.”

Other famous Finnish people include:

• Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo – president and CEO of Nokia
• Rudolf Walden - founder of United Paper Mills (1878 – 1946)
• Composers Leif Segerstam, Pekka Simojoki, and of course, Osmo Vänskä, the latter of whom leads the Minnesota Orchestra.
• Artturi Ilmari Virtanen – chemist, Nobelist (1895 – 1973)
• Vilho Väisälä – mathematician, inventor of meteorological instruments (1889 – 1969)
• Paavo Aaltonen – gymnast, three Olympic gold medals (1919 – 1962)
• Jouko Ahola – World’s strongest man champion twice
• mountain climber Veikka Gustafsson

Next: Germans

The next largest ethnic group behind Scandanavians are the Germans, which make up most of the remainder of local heritage.

Kingston and Darwin feature the highest percentages of German ancestry, with 46.7 percent and 44.2 percent of numbers respectively. Dassel and Cokato both contain the same percentage of people with German background, 32.3 percent.

As such, local residents can claim a rich heritage of inventors as well as famous people who are German born or the children of German immigrants.

Germans generated an endless list of inventions; including everything from aspirin to the zeppelin.

The following is a small sample of important German inventions:

• X-rays, discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
• The world’s first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine was built by German Karl Benz in 1885
• diesel fueled internal combustion engine by Rudolf Diesel
• Geiger counters, which were co-invented by German Hans Geiger
• Aspirin, which was synthesized in 1899 by German chemist Felix Hoffmann, who worked for a German company called Bayer
• The unit of frequency of a radio wave – one cycle per second – is named the hertz, in honor of Heinrich Hertz.
• Gutenberg press, an innovative printing machine that used movable type by Johannes Gutenberg
• The first electric elevator was built by the German inventor Werner von Siemens in 1880
• Germans Max Knott and Ernst Ruska co-invented the electron microscope
• Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin was the German military officer who developed the rigid dirigible; a lighter-than-air vehicle that became known as the zeppelin (something like the Goodyear blimp).

There are also numerous famous Germans and German immigrants, including famous sluggers Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, as well as famous shortstop Honus Wagner (1874-1955)

• “The Flying Dutchman” (In Wagner’s time, the term “Dutch” was a common nickname for Germans.)

Other famous Germans:

• Martin Luther
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So what isn’t German? How about German chocolate cake.

The words “German chocolate cake” are derived from German’s Sweet Chocolate, which was a certain type of chocolate named after an Englishman named Sam German.

According to Kraft Foods/General Foods, Sam German, who worked for the Baker’s Chocolate Company, developed a bar of sweet baking chocolate in 1852. The new product carried the name of its inventor: Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.

The first known published recipe for a cake using German’s Sweet Chocolate surfaced in a Texas newspaper in 1957. Over time, the name of the popular recipe, using Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was shortened to “German chocolate cake.”