Tronstad, born in 1903, was educated at NTNU’s precursor, the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) and later became a professor of inorganic chemistry. He had an extensive international network, and some 80 research publications. Heavy water (Gemini article in Norwegian) was one of his fields of interest, and before the war he worked as a consultant for Norsk Hydro when the company was building the heavy water plant at Vemork in Telemark.
During World War II, Tronstad distinguished himself in the resistance movement in Norway. He helped to train Norwegian resistance fighters in the United Kingdom. Tronstad’s knowledge of heavy water and Norsk Hydro’s heavy water plant made him a key contributor to the sabotage mission.
The background for the sabotage was the fear that the heavy water would be used in producing atomic weapons in Germany. The mission took place during the night from 27 to 28 February 1943.
In 1944, Tronstad returned to Norway as the leader of a underground resistance group in Telemark, but was killed in a clash with Norwegian Nazi sympathizers during the spring of 1945.
This article is based on an internet exhibition created by the Faculty of Natural Sciences at NTNU.
For more information, see:
- Reference: The book “Professor Tronstads Krig” (Professor Tronstad’s War) by Olav Njølstad (2012).
- Leif Tronstad’s biography in English.
- The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) Web-TV: “Krigens beste historie – Kampen om tungtvannet (The best story of the war – The battle for the heavy water”.
With thanks to the NTNU University Library, Kjell Røkke and Geir Martin Haarberg – NTNU and NTNU University Museum.