Gunnar Knudsen

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Gunnar Knudsen
Gunnar Knudsen.jpg
3rd Prime Minister of Norway
In office
31 January 1913 – 21 June 1920
Monarch Haakon VII
Preceded by Jens Bratlie
Succeeded by Otto Bahr Halvorsen
In office
19 March 1908 – 2 February 1910
Monarch Haakon VII
Preceded by Jørgen Løvland
Succeeded by Wollert Konow
Personal details
Born 19 September 1848
Saltrød, Norway
Died 1 December 1928(1928-12-01) (aged 80)
Skien, Norway
Political party Liberal Party

Gunnar Knudsen (19 September 1848, Saltrød – 1 December 1928, Skien), born Aanon Gunerius Knudsen, was a Norwegian politician from the Liberal Party who had two spells as Prime Minister of Norway from 1908 to 1910 and from 1913 to 1920. He also owned a number of shipping companies, and created the Borgestad corporation.

Early life and education[edit]

Knudsen was born in 1848 at the medium-sized farm Saltrød in Stokken, now part of Arendal at the South coast of Norway. His father Christen Knudsen was a sea captain and ship-owner, whose ancestors had lived at the farm for several generations. His mother Guro Aadnesdatter had grown up at one of the smaller farms in Saltrød which her father which hailed from Vegusdal had bought. Christen Knudsen established a shipyard in Arendal in 1851, but in 1855 he and the family moved to Frednes in Porsgrunn.[1]

A brother of Gunnar died in 1855, his two living siblings were Jørgen Christian Knudsen (born 1843) and Ellen Serine (born 1846) who married Johan Jeremiassen.[2]

He started studying at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1865 where he got a degree as engineer in 1867.[3] Returning to Norway, he started working at Aker's Mechanical Workshop and then went to England where he studied ship building technics at Piles Shipyard in Sunderland. The first ship he designed for the family's shipyard was Gambetta, named after the French politician Léon Gambetta. It was launched in 1871. The stay in England convinced Knudsen that the days of sail ships would soon be over and that the family business needed to start building steam ships in the future.[4]

Gunnar and his brother Jørgen Christian took over the shipyard from their father in 1872. In the following years they would also take over ships their father owned and the brothers formed a shipyard and shipping company together: J.C. og G. Knudsen.[5] In the period until 1879, Knudsen designed five ships for the company. He named the fifth Crossroad; it was the last sail ship he designed.

In social policy, Knudsen's time as prime minister saw the passage of the Sickness insurance Law of September 1909 provided compulsory coverage for employees and workers below a certain income limit, representing approximately 45% of all wage earners.[6] That same year, the state approved free midwife services for unmarried mothers. In 1915, free midwife services were extended to the wives of men included under the national health insurance scheme.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Gunnar Knudsen married Anna Sofie Cappelen in 1880, and together they had five children, born between 1882 and 1893; Erik, Christen, Gudrun, Margit and Rolf.[8] Margit, married Schiøtt, was elected to the national parliament in 1945. Christen Knudsen had a son Knut Andreas Knudsen who became a politician as well.


  1. ^ Nissen p. 9–10
  2. ^ Nissen p. 11
  3. ^ Nissen p. 16
  4. ^ Nissen p. 19
  5. ^ Nissen p. 23
  6. ^ Growth to limits: the Western European welfare states since World War 2: Volume 4 by Peter Flora
  7. ^ Foundations of the Welfare State, 2nd Edition by Pat Thane, published 1996
  8. ^ Utdrag av Gjerpens kirkebøker i hundrede aar: 1815–1914, vedkommende fødte, gifte og døde av mere almindelig interesse


  • Nissen, Bernt A (1957). Gunnar Knudsen. Aschehoug. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Jørgen Løvland
Prime Minister of Norway
Succeeded by
Wollert Konow
Preceded by
Jens Bratlie
Prime Minister of Norway
Succeeded by
Otto Bahr Halvorsen