Daedalus flykt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


The Swedish inventor and scientist Christopher Polhem (1661-1751) has been called the Daedalus of the North. This article concerns the picture of Polhem through the ages, what has been written concerning him, and about the still surprisingly modest research on him. First gives a short introduction to Polhem. His own life story, put forward by himself, has had an immense influence on the following biographies. He depicts a story about a poor orphan, who, after hard studies and work, eventually succeeded. This some how rhetoric and exaggerated story lives on in the following literature. Though, he really was admired during his on lifetime, often called the Archimedes of the North, the hyperborean Daedalus on so forth. He became a living patriotic symbol of the technical genius, the saviour of the Swedish economy. This ”romantic” tale is very abundant all the way from the end of the 18th century up to this day. He is the light fighting the powers of darkness, he is a paragon of virtue for young people, and he symbolizes the hopes for a better future through technical development and industrialization. The Polhem research, though, is not very extensive. No thorough biography has been written. There is in all only one scholarly written monograph. What has paid attention is especially Polhem as an inventor and industrial pioneer, not his extensive work in science, pedagogics, economy etc. A future Polhem research may take in concern his rhetoric way of claiming himself, and our need of heroes and moral examples. A possible track may be, what I call a ”cognitive history of ideas”, a history counting with the cognitive abilities of the human being.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History of Ideas


  • history of technology, Christopher Polhem
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolhem. Teknikhistorisk årsbok 2005
EditorsAnders Lundgren
PublisherSvenska nationalkommittén för teknikhistoria
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1653-4964