Olaf Hassel
Olaf Hassel was born on May 12, 1898 near Kongsberg, Norway.  His family lived on a farm.  When Mr. Hassel was 1 year old his family found out he was deaf.  He went to the Christiania Public School for the Deaf. At school he learned to be a designer.  He was very interested in art.  However, his family needed him to work at home on their farm.  He decided to help his family.

Farm House

Picture courtesy of Rune Anda

Picture Courtesy of Rune Anda

Mr. Hassel became interested in astronomy during school.  He continued to study stars after he left the school.  Finally, he joined the Nordic Nova Society.  The Nordic Nova Society is a group of people that study stars.  Mr. Hassel was given his own stars to study.  He was still not happy because was not given very big area to study. 
He was very excited when the farm got new electric lights because he could read his books at night.  He studied books and taught himself how to find stars. One night he was looking at the stars using glasses.  He saw a star no one had ever seen before.

Mr. Hassel wearing his glasses.

Picture courtesy of Rune Anda


Picture Courtesy of NASA

It was called a Reids comet.  He studied the stars for eighteen more years.  He did not find anything new.

One night he was studying the stars and he saw something he had not seen the night before.  It was a comet.  He had to wait until the next day to tell the astronomical observatory because he could not use a phone.  The comet was named after him and two other astronomers who had also seen it.  It was named "Comet Jurlof-Achmarof-Hassel". 

Comet Jurlof-Achmarof-Hassel

Picture Courtesy of Rune Anda


Picture Courtesy of NASA

After this Mr. Hassel started working at the Meteorological Institution of Oslo.  He liked to take pictures of stars and comets and then study the pictures.  He was very good at it.  The next thing Mr. Hassel discovered was a nova.  It was named "Nova Hercules 1960 (Hassel)".

Mr. Hassel was active in the Norwegian Deaf community and knew Norwegian Sign Language.  He taught Deaf people in his community about astronomy.  He went to conventions for deaf people and showed them all the pictures he took at work.  He read lips and wrote to communicate with the people he worked with.

The Number 6 in Norwegian Sign Language
Picture Courtesy of Think Quest

Picture Courtesy of Rune Anda 

Before Hassel died five close family members died within two years and he was sad.  Mr. Hassel died of an illness caused by his sadness on August 15, 1972. 


Association of Amateur Astronomers

Honorary Member of the Norweigan Astronomical Society



Fridtjof Nansen award

American Association of Variable Star Observer's award

King of Norway's Gold Metal of service


Web Links


Anda, Rune (1997). Olaf Hassel: The deafborn Norweigian farmerboy with a world reputation among astronomers [PDF
       Document]Retrieved from 

Lang, H. G., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Olaf Hassel.  In A Biographical Dictionary: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences
(pp.175-178). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.