Chester Hjortur Thordarson (May 12, 1867 - January 6, 1945) — born Hjörtur Þórðarson — was an Icelandic-American inventor who eventually held nearly a hundred patents. He was instrumental in the development of the modern energy transmission grid with his work in transformers. He achieved his first distinction at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where for the Purdue University exhibit he designed and built the first million-volt transformer. For his efforts he won the gold medal from the 1904 World's Fair.
Thordarson immigrated to the United States from Iceland in 1873. During his lifetime he founded a successful manufacturing company in Chicago, Illinois, and established a private vacation retreat on Rock Island, an island off the tip Wisconsin's Door Peninsula.
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At his death in 1945 he bequeathed his book collection to the University of Wisconsin. The Thoradson collection was estimated to be worth one million dollars in 1945 and led to the establishment of the Rare Books Department. Dr. Jen Christian Bay, a member of the Bibliographical Society of America commented on the collection in 1929:
- "Of William Copland, The Craft of Grafting (1560), two copies are known, one in the Thordason Collection"
- "Of the greatest [herbal] of all, the Hortus Sanitatis, Mr. Thordarson's copy of the edition of 1561 is a remarkably beautiful copy...."
- [Of the 1540 A Boke of the Proertyes of Herbes:] "This book is one of Mr. Thordason's discoveries; no copy is known in any other library."
- [Of H. Baker's The Wellspring of Sciences:] "The British Museum seemingly possesses no copy with an earlier date then 1574. Mr Thordarson's copy [of 1564] seems unique."
Rock Island estate
Several years after his death Rock Island, and Thordarson's estate there, were designated Rock Island State Park. His buildings have been added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Thordarson Estate Historic District.
- U.W. Library News, March 1966
- "Rock Island, a part of the Washington Township," by Eaton, Conan Bryant, 1969, published by the Door County Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, WI.
- Ralph Hagedorn, "Bibliotheca Thordarsoniana: The Sequel," in PAPERS of the Bibliographical Society of America, Vo. 44 (Q1, 1950). Dr. Bay's essay later formed a chapter in his the Fortune of Books, (Chicago, 1941), 105-121
- Biography of Chester Thordarson
- Thordarson Meissner, Inc
- Rock Island: Chester Thordarson Documentary produced by Wisconsin Public Television
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