Emil Christian Hansen (1842-1909)

Director of the Physiological Department at the Carlsberg Laboratory 1879-1909, expert on beer fermentation, painter 1860-62, private tutor 1862-71, DSc 1879, titular professor 1892.

In 1876 Emil Christian Hansen and his fellow student of natural history, Alfred Jørgensen, translated Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. The translation was entitled Rejse om Jorden [Voyage around the World] (Copenhagen: Salmonsen, 1876), and it was based on the English 1860 edition A Naturalist’s Voyage. Hansen, however, was critical towards Darwin’s evolutionary work and did not have regards for the pro-Darwinian radical-liberal intelligentsia in Copenhagen. In 1873 Hansen had completed his studies of natural history and his dissertation on bogs. During his university studies he worked as an unpaid assistant for the professor of zoology Japetus Steenstrup. Hansen came from a working-class background, and at the time of the translation he was unemployed. The translation of the famous English naturalist was therefore a vital opportunity to earn some money. In 1879, he submitted his doctoral thesis on fermentation of beer and became director of the Physiological Department of the industrial Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen. He was a pioneer in the cultivation of pure ferments for beer production. Hansen’s experiments with ferment which apparently showed that living organisms could change through generations of influence by high temperature were used by professor of botany Eugen Warming and others as a much needed experimental evidence for the Lamarckian evolutionary mechanism of inheritance of acquired characteristics.     

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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