|Birth Day:||February 19, 1865|
|Death Date:||26 November 1952(1952-11-26) (aged 87)
|Birth Place:||Stockholm, Sweden, Sweden|
|#1||Abraham Ludvig Hedin||Parents||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#2||Anna Sofia Berlin||Parents||N/A||N/A||N/A|
As per our current Database, Sven Hedin died on 26 November 1952(1952-11-26) (aged 87)
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In May 1885, Hedin graduated from Beskowska secondary school in Stockholm. He then accepted an offer to accompany the student Erhard Sandgren as his private tutor to Baku, where Sandgren's father was working as an engineer in the oil fields of Robert Nobel. Afterward he attended a course in topography for general staff officers for one month in summer 1885 and took a few weeks of instruction in portrait drawing; this comprised his entire training in those areas.
On 15 August 1885, he traveled to Baku with Erhard Sandgren and instructed him there for seven months, and he himself began to learn the Latin, French, German, Persian, Russian, English and Tatar languages. He later learned several Persian dialects as well as Turkish, Kyrgyz, Mongolian, Tibetan and some Chinese.
On 6 April 1886, Hedin left Baku for Iran (then called Persia), traveling by paddle steamer over the Caspian Sea, riding through the Alborz Range to Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and the harbor city of Bushehr. From there he took a ship up the Tigris River to Baghdad (then in Ottoman Empire), returning to Tehran via Kermanshah, and then travelling through the Caucasus and over the Black Sea to Constantinople. Hedin then returned to Sweden, arriving on 18 September 1886.
From 1886 to 1888, Hedin studied under the geologist Waldemar Brøgger in Stockholm and Uppsala the subjects of geology, mineralogy, zoology and Latin. In December 1888, he became a Candidate in Philosophy. From October 1889 to March 1890 he studied in Berlin under Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen.
In 1887, Hedin published a book about these travels entitled Through Persia, Mesopotamia and the Caucasus.
On 12 May 1890, he accompanied as interpreter and vice-consul a Swedish legation to Iran which was to present the Shah of Iran with the insignia of the Order of the Seraphim. As part of the Swedish legation, he was at an audience of the shah Naser al-Din Shah Qajar in Tehran. He spoke with him and later accompanied him to the Elburz Mountain Range. On 11 July 1890, he and three others climbed Mount Damavand where he collected primary material for his dissertation. Starting in September he traveled on the Silk Road via cities Mashhad, Ashgabat, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent and Kashgar to the western outskirts of the Taklamakan Desert. On the trip home, he visited the grave of the Russian Asian scholar, Nikolai Przhevalsky in Karakol on the shore of Lake Issyk Kul. On 29 March 1891, he was back in Stockholm. He published the books King Oscar's Legation to the Shah of Persia in 1890 and Through Chorasan and Turkestan about this journey.
On 27 April 1892, Hedin traveled to Berlin to continue his studies under Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen. Beginning of July he went to University of Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, attending lectures by Alfred Kirchhoff. Yet in the same month, he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy with a 28-page dissertation entitled Personal Observations of Damavand. This dissertation is a summary of one part of his book, King Oscar's Legation to the Shah of Persia in 1890. Eric Wennerholm remarked on the subject:
Between 1893 and 1897, Hedin investigated the Pamir Mountains, travelling through the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang region, across the Taklamakan Desert, Lake Kara-Koshun and Lake Bosten, proceeding to study northern Tibet. He covered 26,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) on this journey and mapped 10,498 kilometres (6,523 mi) of them on 552 sheets. Approximately 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) led through previously uncharted areas.
He started out on this expedition on 16 October 1893, from Stockholm, traveling via Saint Petersburg and Tashkent to the Pamir Mountains. Several attempts to climb the 7,546 metres (24,757 ft) high Muztagata—called the Father of the Glaciers—in the Pamir Mountains were unsuccessful. He remained in Kashgar until April 1895 and then left on 10 April with three local escorts from the village of Merket to cross the Taklamakan Desert via Tusluk to the Khotan River. Since their water supply was insufficient, seven camels died of thirst, as did two of his escorts (according to Hedin's dramatized and probably inaccurate account). Bruno Baumann traveled on this route in April 2000 with a camel caravan and ascertained that at least one of the escorts who, according to Hedin, had died of thirst had survived, and that it is impossible for a camel caravan traveling in springtime on this route to carry enough drinking water for both camels and travelers.
Between 1894 and 1908, in three daring expeditions through the mountains and deserts of Central Asia, he mapped and researched parts of Chinese Turkestan (officially Xinjiang) and Tibet which had been unexplored until then. Upon his return to Stockholm in 1909 he was received as triumphantly as Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld. In 1902, he became the last Swede (to date) to be raised to the untitled nobility and was considered one of Sweden's most important personalities. As a member of two scientific academies, he had a voice in the selection of Nobel Prize winners for both science and literature. Hedin never married and had no children, rendering his family line now extinct.
In January 1896, after a stopover in Kashgar, Hedin visited the 1,500-year-old abandoned cities of Dandan Oilik and Kara Dung, which are located northeast of Khotan in the Taklamakan Desert. At the beginning of March, he discovered Lake Bosten, one of the largest inland bodies of water in Central Asia. He reported that this lake is supplied by a single mighty feeder stream, the Kaidu River. He mapped Lake Kara-Koshun and returned on 27 May to Khotan. On 29 June, he started out from there with his caravan across northern Tibet and China to Beijing, where he arrived on 2 March 1897. He returned to Stockholm via Mongolia and Russia.
During his travels in 1900 and 1901 he attempted in vain to reach the city of Lhasa, which was forbidden to Europeans. He continued to Leh, in Ladakh district, India. From Leh, Hedin's route took him to Lahore, Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Benares to Calcutta, meeting there with George Nathaniel Curzon, England's then Viceroy to India.
Hedin prepared a scientific publication for each of his expeditions. The extent of documentation increased dramatically from expedition to expedition. His research report about the first expedition was published in 1900 as Die geographisch-wissenschaftlichen Ergebnisse meiner Reisen in Zentralasien 1894–97 (Supplement 28 to Petermanns Mitteilungen), Gotha 1900. The publication about the second expedition, Scientific Results of a Journey in Central Asia, increased to six text and two atlas volumes. Southern Tibet, the scientific publication on the third expedition, totalled twelve volumes, three of which were atlases. The results of the Sino-Swedish Expedition were published under the title of Reports from the scientific expedition to the north-western provinces of China under leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin. The sino-Swedish expedition. This publication went through 49 editions.
Because of his outstanding services, Hedin was raised to the untitled nobility by King Oskar II in 1902, the last time any Swede was to receive a charter of nobility. Oskar II suggested that he prefix the name Hedin with one of the two common predicates of nobility in Sweden, "af" or "von", but Hedin abstained from doing so in his written response to the king. In many noble families in Sweden, it was customary to do without the title of nobility. The coat of arms of Hedin, together with those of some two thousand noble families, is to be found on a wall of the Great Hall in Riddarhuset, the assembly house of Swedish nobility in Stockholm's inner city, Gamla Stan.
Between 1905 and 1908, Hedin investigated the Central Iranian desert basins, the western highlands of Tibet and the Transhimalaya, which for a time was afterward called the Hedin Range. He visited the 9th Panchen Lama in the cloistered city of Tashilhunpo in Shigatse. Hedin was the first European to reach the Kailash region, including the sacred Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash, the midpoint of the earth according to Buddhist and Hindu mythology. The most important goal of the expedition was the search for the sources of the Indus and Brahmaputra Rivers, both of which Hedin found. From India, he returned via Japan and Russia to Stockholm.
In 1905, Hedin was admitted to membership in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in 1909 to the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences. From 1913 to 1952 he held the sixth of 18 chairs as an elected member of the Swedish Academy. In this position, he had a vote in the selection of Nobel Prize winners.
Hedin was a monarchist. From 1905 onwards he took a stand against the move toward democracy in his Swedish homeland. He warned of the dangers he assumed to be coming from Czarist Russia, and called for an alliance with the German Empire. Therefore, he advocated a strengthened national defence, with a vigilant military preparedness. August Strindberg was one of his opponents on this issue, which divided Swedish politics at the time. In 1912 Hedin publicly supported the Swedish coastal defense ship Society. He helped collect public donations for the building of the coastal defense ship HSwMS Sverige, which the Liberal and anti-militarist government of Karl Staaff had been unwilling to finance. In early 1914, when the Liberal government enacted cutbacks to the country's defenses, Hedin wrote the Courtyard Speech, in which King Gustaf V promised to strengthen the country's defenses. The speech led to a political crisis that ended with Staaff and his government resigning and being replaced by a non-party, more conservative government.
After a less-than-successful lecture tour in 1923 through North America and Japan, he traveled on to Beijing to carry out an expedition to Chinese Turkestan (modern Xinjiang), but the region's unstable political situation thwarted this intention. He instead traveled through Mongolia by car and through Siberia aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.
In 1923, Hedin traveled to Beijing via the USA—where he visited the Grand Canyon—and Japan. Because of political and social unrest in China, he had to abandon an expedition to Xinjiang. Instead, he traveled with Frans August Larson (called the "Duke of Mongolia") in November and December in a Dodge automobile from Peking through Mongolia via Ulaanbaatar to Ulan-Ude, Russia and from there on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Moscow.
Between 1927 and 1935, Hedin led an international Sino-Swedish Expedition which investigated the meteorological, topographic and prehistoric situation in Mongolia, the Gobi Desert and Xinjiang.
From 1931 until his death in 1952, Hedin lived in Stockholm in a modern high-rise in a preferred location, the address being Norr Mälarstrand 66. He lived with his siblings in the upper three stories and from the balcony he had a wide view over Riddarfjärden Bay and Lake Mälaren to the island of Långholmen. In the entryway to the stairwell is to be found a decorative stucco relief map of Hedin's research area in Central Asia and a relief of the Lama temple, a copy of which he had brought to Chicago for the 1933 World's Fair.
The first part of the expedition, from 1927 to 1932, led from Beijing via Baotou to Mongolia, over the Gobi Desert, through Xinjiang to Ürümqi, and into the northern and eastern parts of the Tarim Basin. The expedition had a wealth of scientific results which are being published up to the present time. For example, the discovery of specific deposits of iron, manganese, oil, coal and gold reserves was of great economic relevance for China. In recognition of his achievements, the Berlin Geographical Society presented him with the Ferdinand von Richthofen Medal in 1933; the same honor was also awarded to Erich von Drygalski for his Gauss Expedition to the Antarctic; and to Alfred Philippson for his research on the Aegean Region.
One aspect of the geography of central Asia which intensively occupied Hedin for decades was what he called the "wandering lake" Lop Nur. In May 1934, he began a river expedition to this lake. For two months he navigated the Kaidu River and the Kum-Darja to Lop Nur, which had been filled with water since 1921. After the lake dried out in 1971 as a consequence of irrigation activities, the above-mentioned transportation link enabled the People's Republic of China to construct a nuclear weapon test site at Lop Nur.
In 1935, Hedin made his exclusive knowledge about Central Asia available, not only to the Swedish government, but also to foreign governments such as China and Germany, in lectures and personal discussions with political representatives of Chiang Kai-shek and Adolf Hitler.
Although Hedin's research was taboo in Germany and Sweden because of his conduct relating to Nazi Germany, and stagnated for decades in Germany, the scientific documentation of his expeditions was translated into Chinese by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and incorporated into Chinese research. Following recommendations made by Hedin to the Chinese government in 1935, the routes he selected were used to construct streets and train tracks, as well as dams and canals to irrigate new farms being established in the Tarim and Yanji basins in Xinjiang and the deposits of iron, manganese, oil, coal and gold discovered during the Sino-Swedish Expedition were opened up for mining. Among the discoveries of this expedition should also be counted the many Asian plants and animals unheard of until that date, as well as fossil remains of dinosaurs and other extinct animals. Many were named after Hedin, the species-level scientific classification being hedini. But one discovery remained unknown to Chinese researchers until the turn of the millennium: in the Lop Nur desert, Hedin discovered in 1933 and 1934 ruins of signal towers which prove that the Great Wall of China once extended as far west as Xinjiang.
For the return trip, Hedin selected the southern Silk Road route via Hotan to Xi'an, where the expedition arrived on 7 February 1935. He continued on to Beijing to meet with President Lin Sen and to Nanjing to Chiang Kai-shek. He celebrated his 70th birthday on 19 February 1935 in the presence of 250 members of the Kuomintang government, to whom he reported interesting facts about the Sino-Swedish Expedition. On this day, he was awarded the Brilliant Jade Order, Second Class.
At the end of the expedition, Hedin was in a difficult financial situation. He had considerable debts at the German-Asian Bank in Beijing, which he repaid with the royalties and fees received for his books and lectures. In the months after his return, he held 111 lectures in 91 German cities as well as 19 lectures in neighboring countries. To accomplish this lecture tour, he covered a stretch as long as the equator, 23,000 kilometres (14,000 mi) by train and 17,000 kilometres (11,000 mi) by car—in a time period of five months. He met Adolf Hitler in Berlin before his lecture on 14 April 1935.
Starting in 1937, the scientific material assembled during the expedition was published in over 50 volumes by Hedin and other expedition participants, thereby making it available for worldwide research on eastern Asia. When he ran out of money to pay printing costs, he pawned his extensive and valuable library, which filled several rooms, making possible the publication of additional volumes.
In 1937 Hedin refused to publish his book Deutschland und der Weltfrieden (Germany and World Peace) in Germany because the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda insisted on the deletion of Nazi-critical passages. In a letter Hedin wrote to State Secretary Walther Funk dated 16 April 1937, it becomes clear what his criticism of National Socialism was in this time before the establishment of extermination camps:
The Nazis attempted to achieve a close connection to Hedin by bestowing awards upon him—later scholars have noted that "honors were heaped upon this prominent sympathizer." They asked him to present an address on Sport as a Teacher at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin's Olympic stadium. They made him an honorary member of the German-Swedish Union Berlin (German: Deutsch-Schwedische Vereinigung Berlin e.V.) In 1938, they presented him with the City of Berlin's Badge of Honor (German: Ehrenplakette der Stadt Berlin). For his 75th birthday on 19 February 1940 they awarded him the Order of the German Eagle; shortly before that date it had been presented to Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh. On New Year's Day 1943 they released the Oslo professor of philology and university rector Didrik Arup Seip from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at Hedin's request to obtain Hedin's agreement to accept additional honors during the 470th anniversary of Munich University. On 15 January 1943, he received the Gold Medal of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (Goldmedaille der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften). On 16 January 1943 he received an honorary doctorate from the faculty of natural sciences of Munich University. On the same day, the Nazis founded in his absence the Sven Hedin Institute for Inner Asian Research located at Mittersill Castle, which was supposed to serve the long-term advancement of the scientific legacy of Hedin and Wilhelm Filchner as Asian experts. However, it was instead misused by Heinrich Himmler as an institute of the Research Association for German Genealogical Inheritance (Forschungsgemeinschaft Deutsches Ahnenerbe e.V.). On 21 January 1943, he was requested to sign the Golden Book of the city of Munich.
After he refused to remove his criticism of National Socialism from his book Deutschland und der Weltfrieden, the Nazis confiscated the passports of Hedin's Jewish friend Alfred Philippson and his family in 1938 to prevent their intended departure to American exile and retain them in Germany as a bargaining chip when dealing with Hedin. The consequence was that Hedin expressed himself more favorably about Nazi Germany in his book Fünfzig Jahre Deutschland, subjugated himself against his conscience to the censorship of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, and published the book in Germany.
After the third senate of the highest German military court (Reichskriegsgericht) in Berlin condemned to death for alleged espionage the ten Norwegians Sigurd Jakobsen, Gunnar Hellesen, Helge Børseth, Siegmund Brommeland, Peter Andree Hjelmervik, Siegmund Rasmussen, Gunnar Carlsen, Knud Gjerstad, Christian Oftedahl and Frithiof Lund on 24 February 1941, Hedin successfully appealed via Colonel General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst to Adolf Hitler for their reprieve. Their death penalty was converted on 17 June 1941 by Adolf Hitler to ten years forced labor. The Norwegians Carl W. Mueller, Knud Naerum, Peder Fagerland, Ottar Ryan, Tor Gerrard Rydland, Hans Bernhard Risanger and Arne Sørvag who had been condemned to forced labor under the same charge received reduced sentences at Hedin's request. Unfortunately, Hans Bernhard Risanger died in prison just a few days before his release.
On 29 October 1942, Hitler read Hedin's book entitled, America in the Battle of the Continents. In the book Hedin promoted the view that President Roosevelt was responsible for the outbreak of war in 1939 and that Hitler had done everything in his power to prevent war. Moreover, Hedin argued that the origins of the Second World War lay not in German belligerence but in the Treaty of Versailles. This book deeply influenced Hitler and reaffirmed his views on the origins of the war and who was responsible for it. In a letter to Hedin the following day Hilter wrote, "I thank you warmly for the attention you have shown me. I have already read the book and welcome in particular that you so explicitly detailed the offers I made to Poland at the beginning of the War". Hilter continued, "without question, the individual guilty of this war, as you correctly state at the end of your book, is exclusively the American President Roosevelt."
On 8 June 1942, the Nazis increased the pressure on Hedin by deporting Alfred Philippson and his family to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. By doing so, they accomplished their goal of forcing Hedin against his conscience to write his book Amerika im Kampf der Kontinente in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and other government agencies and to publish it in Germany in 1942. In return, the Nazis classified Alfred Philippson as "A-prominent" and granted his family privileges which enabled them to survive.
For a long time Hedin was in correspondence with Alfred Philippson and regularly sent food parcels to him in Theresienstadt concentration camp. On 29 May 1946, Alfred Philippson wrote to him (translation, abbreviated quotation):
Hedin responded on 19 July 1946 (translation, abbreviated quotation):
Von Falkenhorst was condemned to death, by firing squad, by a British military court on August 2, 1946, because of his responsibility for passing on a Führerbefehl called the Commando Order. Hedin intervened on his behalf, achieving a pardon on December 4, 1946, with the argument that von Falkenhorst had likewise striven to pardon the ten Norwegians condemned to death. Von Falkenhorst's death penalty was commuted by the British military court to 20 years in prison. In the end, Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was released early from the Werl war criminals prison on July 13, 1953.
On 29 October 1952, Hedin's will granted the rights to his books and his extensive personal effects to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; the Sven Hedin Foundation established soon thereafter holds all the rights of ownership.
Hedin died at Stockholm in 1952. The memorial service was attended by representatives of the Swedish royal household, the Swedish government, the Swedish Academy, and the diplomatic service. He is buried in the cemetery of Adolf Fredrik church in Stockholm.
In the Adolf Frederick church can be found the Sven Hedin memorial plaque by Liss Eriksson. The plaque was installed in 1959. On it, a globe with Asia to the fore can be seen, crowned with a camel. It bears the Swedish epitaph:
Currently, Sven Hedin is 156 years, 8 months and 3 days old. Sven Hedin will celebrate 157th birthday on a Saturday 19th of February 2022.
Find out about Sven Hedin birthday activities in timeline view here.