Nils Waltersen Aasen
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Aasen was born in Stadsbygd, Rissa, Norway, and went on to graduate from Festningsartilleriets Underoffiserskole (Fortress-Artillery School for Non-Commissioned Officers) in 1903. He started his experiments developing a hand grenade while serving as a sergeant at Oscarsborg Fortress. He was encouraged in his work by the commander at Oscarsborg, former defense minister Hans Georg Stang, who was a strong supporter in the reinforcement and modernization of the military, especially with the threat of a possible conflict with Sweden. The Norwegian department of defense showed little interest in Aasen's prototype. He then formed Det Aasenske Granatkompani (Aasen's Grenade Company) in Denmark, which towards World War I produced and exported large numbers of his grenade all over Europe. Apart from new types of explosives, trench mortars, airplane bombs and land mines he also created several inventions for civil use, but it was the development and production of arms that would bring him his greatest honours.
Just prior to World War I Aasen developed a powerful anti-personnel mine, "the automatic soldier," meant as a weapon of deterrence. The invention caused great enthusiasm within the French military but did not see production before the war. During World War I Aasen was given the task of producing hand grenades for the French army. He would have 13 factories with 13,000 employees working throughout the war.
In 1917 his hand grenade was finally adopted by the Norwegian army, who later promoted him to premier-lieutenant for his efforts. Throughout his life he received a number of honorary degrees and awards, as well as medals, for his inventions. Most notably he was made an honorary colonel in the French army, and a Chevalier in the order of the Légion d'honneur in 1915.
Aasen's fortune was greatly reduced as a result of bad financial speculations, and because he had never patented the rights to several of his inventions. He died from tuberculosis in Wisconsin, at the age of 48, while visiting the United States seeking finance. There are now many types of hand grenades, used worldwide.
- "Guide to the Archives of The Norwegian-American Historical Association". The Norwegian-American Historical Association. Retrieved 2006-08-10.