Famous Finns

Jean Sibelius – Johan Julius Christian Sibelius – was born on the 8th of December, 1865, and he died on the 20th of September, 1957. He is the most famous Finnish composer, Finland’s national composer. He has composed classical music, including symphonies. Finlandia (1899) is his most famous piece: Finlandia helped Finland become independent. Sibelius has his own day on the 8th of December, right after Finland’s Independence Day. These are famous works by Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Valse triste, Kullervo (from Kalevala), The Swan of Tuonela (from Kalevala) and Karelia suite. Sibelius is on a stamp and also on a special two-euro coin.

By Julia and Sofia, 5a

Paavo Nurmi (1897 – 1973) is the most famous Finnish runner. He ran 800 – 10 000 metres. He ran Finland onto the world map. He won nine Olympic gold medals having won as many medals as Carl Lewis. He was called ’the Flying Finn’. In 1924 Paavo Nurmi competed in the USA. He took part in 55 competitions only losing two. In 1932 in the Los Angeles Olympics Paavo Nurmi was closed out of the Olympics for being a professional athlete. This was orchestrated by the Swedes who were jealous of his success.

By Samuli, 5a

Aleksis Kivi (1834 – 1872) is Finland’s national author. His real name was Alexis Stenvall. His most famous book is ’the Seven Brothers’ (1870). ’Nummisuutarit’ (1864) is another famous book by him. He also wrote poetry. They have made songs out of his poems. Aleksis Kivi was very poor. He had to stop going to school because of lack of money and give up his dream to become a pastor / priest. He tried to earn a living as a writer but he wasn’t very popular during his time. He died very young. His last words were ’I live’.

By Sofi and Noora, 5a

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867 – 1951) was a soldier, a general and Finland’s president. President Mannerheim was born in Finland but he died in Lausanne, in Switzerland. He was Finland’s president at the end of the Second World War from 1944 to 1946. President Mannerheim’s family was originally from Germany. He spoke Swedish as his mother tongue. He also spoke fluent German, French and Russian. He served in the Russian army for thirty years. He only learned Finnish after Finland’s independence in 1917. He also spoke some Portuguese, English, Latin, Polish and Chinese. President Mannerheim married a Russian woman and they had two daughters. In the Civil War in 1918, Mannerheim led ”the Whites” against ”the Reds” making sure that Finland stayed capitalist. He also travelled around the world making sure Finland got support for her independence. During the Second World War Finland had two wars with Russia. Mannerheim led the Finnish Army. In 1945 President Mannerheim escaped to Portugal, to Algarve, staying at Hotel Bela Vista: he stayed there until he was cleared of all charges made by the Russians who wanted to put him into prison for collaborating with the Germans.

By Alina, Jenni and Katariina, 5a

Mikael Agricola was born around 1510 in Torsby, in southern Finland. He died in 1557. Mikael Agricola is the father of the Finnish language. Without him there would be no written Finnish. He wrote the first ABC book in Finnish. He translated the New Testament into Finnish and set the rules for modern Finnish orthography. He was a clergyman and helped make Sweden Protestant. Finland was a part of Sweden in the 16th century. Mikael Agricola became Bishop of Turku in 1554. Turku was the capital of Finland back then. Agricola studied in Wittenberg, Germany, between 1536 and 1539. That’s where he translated the New Testament.

By Juho and Jarkko, 6a

Johan Ludvig Runeberg was born in Sweden, in Jakobstad, in 1804, and he died in Finland, in Porvoo, in 1877. He is the national poet of Finland, although he wrote in Swedish. Runeberg has written the lyrics for Finland’s national hymn ”Maamme”. He also wrote ”Vänrikki Stoolin tarinat”: the novel tells about the war between Sweden and Russia in 1808 and 1809 in which Sweden lost and Finland became part of Russia. Runeberg has his own day on the 5th of February. Runeberg’s cake – made by his wife Fredrika – is the speciality of this day. Fredrika Runeberg was a writer, too.

By Kira and Sanni, 6a

Elias Lönnrot (1802 – 1884) was a multi-talent: he was a philologer, a botanist, and a physician. He studied at Turku Academy and Helsinki University. He went to school with Runeberg. Elias Lönnrot was a pioneer in Finnish botany. He also wrote many dictionaries and international medical articles. He was interested in folk art. Elias Lönnrot collected the poems for Finland’s national book ”Kalevala” in eastern Finland and in Estonia. He made many trips between 1832 and 1845.

By Kristiina and Väinö, 6a

Minna Canth – originally Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnson –  (1844 – 1897) was born in Tampere but later the family moved to Kuopio, to eastern Finland. She was a Realist writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote in newspapers. Her plays are still popular, and they are played in many theatres. Minna Canth was a Feminist: she improved women’s possibility to study. She married Mr Canth, moved to Jyväskylä and got seven children. After her husband died, she moved back to Kuopio to take care of her father’s shop. She influenced many schools in Kuopio, in eastern Finland. She had her own salon where she met Finnish and foreign writers and other cultural people. She was a very radical thinker: she criticised the church though her own faith was very strong.

By Siiri and Julia, 6a

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862 – 1946) was a painter. She was born in Helsinki but she died in Sweden. She represented Modernism – Impressionism and Expressionism – although she started with Realism. She painted lots of outdoor paintings and historic scenes, very masculine themes. She studied art in Paris, and in England and Italy, too. She never married.

Albert Edelfelt was born in Porvoo, on the southern coast, in 1854. He died in 1905, also in Porvoo. He was a Realist painter. He studied in the Netherlands, in Paris France and in St. Petersburg Russia. He started with romantic historic topics but moved to naturalist and religious topics. He made Finnish art  better known in the world, especially in the Paris World Exhibition in 1900.

Reetta and Milja, 6a

Ferdinand von Wright (1822 Haminalahti – 1906 Kuopio) was the youngest of the Wright brothers of Scottish descent. Magnus and Wilhelm von Wright were also ornithologists = bird experts and painters, but Ferdinand von Wright is by far the most famous. He painted the famous painting the Fighting Capercaillies (1886). Ferdinand spent many years in Sweden, studying birds and painting. He also studied in Turku and in Dresden, Germany. Narva in Estonia was close to his heart, too.

Erik (Eero) Nikolai Järnefelt was born in Viipuri, in 1863, and he died in Helsinki, in 1937. He was a Finnish painter and art professor. He is best known for his portraits and landscapes of the area around Koli National Park. Eero Järnefelt studied in Helsinki, in Saint Petersburg and in Paris. He also made trips to Italy and Crimea. He fell in love with Koli during his many trips there. He built his house at Lake Tuusula. His sister Aino was married to Jean Sibelius.

By 6c (in 2017)

Aino Ackté (1876-1944) was born in Helsinki in 1876. She was a Finnish opera singer. Her mother was an opera singer and her father was a composer. She studied opera singing in Paris and later sang at Paris Grand Opera. She also sang at the Metropolitan and the Covent Garden. Her main roles was Strauss’s Salome. She had two children with Heikki Renvall (1901-1917). and she was also maried to Bruno Jalander (1919-1944).

Armi Kuusela (1934-) is a Finnish beauty queen. She was born in Muhos in Northern Finland. She became the first Miss Universe in 1952, in the USA.  She used to live in the Philippines for a long time: she was married there and has four children. She now lives in the USA with her second has husband.

Linus Torvalds (1969-) was born in Helsinki. He is a Finnish computer scientist. He became famous because of the success of his operating system, Linux. It’s based on the UNIX operating system. Linus speaks Swedish as his mother tongue. He has his own foundation Linux Foundation. He lives in the United States.

A.I.Virtanen, Artturi Ilmari Virtanen (1895-1973) was born and raised in Helsinki. He studied at Helsinki University of Technology. He later worked in Germany and in Stockholm, in Sweden. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the AIV fodder he created: the green fodder is a silage that improves storage. In addition to improving animal and human health, A.I.Virtanen greatly improved Finnish food industry, dairy and butter industry in particular, helping Finland export dairy products. He later worked as a Professor at Helsinki University of Technology and at Helsinki University. He also worked for Valio, a Finnish dairy company.

F.E. Sillanpää, Frans Emil Sillanpää (1888-1944), was born in Hämeenkyrö, near Tampere. His family was very poor but they wanted him to have a good education. He went to school in Tampere. Later he studied medicine in Helsinki. In Helsinki he met Jean Sibelius. In 1913 he moved back to Hämeenkyrö, got married and started to write. He wrote a famous book Silja, nuorena nukkunut, about a poor young girl working in rich family in Tampere: the book is very sad.  In 1939 he won a Nobel Prize for Literature, the only one Finland has ever won. He had a drinking problem and he got divorced. Later on, he became Grandpa Sillanpää, and he appeared on the radio at Christmas Eve. He has an asteroid named after him.

Bengt Holmström is a Finnish Economist. He was born in Helsinki. He works at MIT in the United States.  He just won the Nobel Prize for Economics (in 2016) together with Oliver Hart.

Martti Ahtisaari was the President of Finland. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2008. He was born in Viipuri in Eastern Finland. Viipuri is now part of Russia.

Ragnar Granit won a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1967. He was born in Riihimäki, in Finland, but he moved to Sweden in 1941 and changed his nationality. Sweden now claims to have won this Nobel Prize.












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