Gustaf Dalén


Nils Gustaf Dalén

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Nils Gustaf Dalén
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1912

Born: 30 November 1869, Stenstorp, Sweden

Died: 9 December 1937, Stockholm, Sweden

Affiliation at the time of the award: Swedish Gas-Accumulator Co., Lidingö, Stockholm, Sweden

Prize motivation: “for his invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys”

Prize share: 1/1


Gustaf Dalén was born in Stenstorp in the Västergötland province of Sweden. Rather than take over the family farm, he studied at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and ETH in Zurich. He subsequently worked in private industry, including at the de Laval’s Steam Turbine Company and, primarily, at AGA, which under his leadership evolved into a global enterprise. He lost his sight in 1912 in an accidental explosion in connection with an experiment but remained active as an industrial leader. He was married and had four children.


For centuries, lighthouses have made navigation safer. In the 19th century, acetylene gas began to be used to light their beacons. Gustaf Dalén developed a method for emitting short flashes of light, thereby reducing gas consumption. In 1907 he invented a regulating valve based on the difference in expansion between black and white metal rods. This “solar valve” could extinguish beacons during daytime, saving more money.

To cite this section
MLA style: Gustaf Dalén – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2024. Thu. 20 Jun 2024. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.