Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard has been interested in science for as long as he remembers.
“I think that I was seven years old when I started a book about planets. To a certain extent, I was inspired by my father, who was a middle school principal and was widely interested in physics and science. I did some chemistry trials in the basement and barely survived. I don’t remember when I exactly decided that it was going to be astronomy rather than another science, but when I started at the university, it was with the idea to study astronomy. It was mostly the physics and math behind it that interested me, so I started out by reading math and physics during the first part. The second part was about astronomy, so this is when I really got into it and started to use computers – the old ones with the punched tape.”
He started his studies in Aarhus, but Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard found that the astronomy there was very observational, and he wanted to do something that was more theoretical, especially with the involvement of gas movement in models of the stars. In 1972, he spent his autumn holiday with his family in Cambridge visiting a friend who was studying there and decided to visit the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
“I got an appointment with the institute leader. Pretty naïve, right? This farmer’s boy from Aarhus wanted to hear about how it was to study in Cambridge. He didn’t expend many words on me, and I was kicked out very fast. He referred me to the formal way: to apply for acceptance and all that. It was a little sad, but at night when we were on our way to dinner at the college my friend was attached to, I was randomly placed next to someone who was studying for a Ph.D. in astronomy. I talked to him for a bit and talked about my unlucky experience, and he said: ‘Well, you should go talk to Dr. Gough.’ This was the day before we were heading home, and when we went to the ferry next day, we drove by the institute where I found Douglas’ door and knocked on it.”
You can read the full portrait of Professor Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard (in Danish) by downloading the chapter below.