Tumultuous life of Norwegian migrant, now living in Port Germein

LIFE DOWN UNDER: Per Jacobsen points to the "formula for all living things" scribbled in the back of his Germen chemistry text book.
LIFE DOWN UNDER: Per Jacobsen points to the "formula for all living things" scribbled in the back of his Germen chemistry text book.

Scribbled in the back page of a German book on unorganic chemistry is an equation by Werner Heisenberg.

The book belongs to Norwegian computer expert Per Jacobsen who kept this “formula for all living things” while he worked in his homeland and was later an “alien” in Australia.

He explains that Heisenberg, who was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics, had dabbled in chaos theory and philosophy.

The result was the formula which interested Mr Jacobsen during the ups-and-downs of his life in Australia after migrating in 1971.

Before that he had a NATO security clearance, having worked in the biggest computer centre in Europe and the Institute of Atomic Energy and the Norwegian Defence Establishment.

But the Garden of Eden promised to Scandinavian migrants by our then government turned out to lack opportunities in micro-meteorology and nuclear applications. 

“When I came out here, I was treated as an alien. I could not get any of the jobs I had previously worked in,” he said.

Mr Jacobsen, 78, was born in Norway. He was aged four when his homeland was invaded and occupied in World War II.

His father was a former mechanical apprentice who rose to be chief workshop manager with the Army’s Flying Corps. His mother was involved in continental delicatessens, making and selling goods.

They lived in a Kjeller, a city of 20,000. It was regarded as a technical hub and had an airport founded as a military installation by two cavalry officers in 1912.

As a youngster, Mr Jacobsen loved science. He started in the air force at 19 years old in mechanics before taking a job at the Institute of Atomic Energy as a laboratory assistant.

He then worked at the Norwegian Defence Establishment migrating to Australia on the lure of a rich future and partly because of allergies that would alleviated by warmer weather.

In his adopted country, he worked for CRA mining in computer programming followed by a position with the Natural Gas Pipelines Authority of South Australia.

He designed control devices to handle gas flows. “We could start the compressors from anywhere along the line from Moomba to Torrens Island,” he said.

Later, as a freelancer he worked on the Moomba installations then designed his own devices and built them for a company in Adelaide.

Things got a bit tough career-wise and he moved into in industrial fibreglassing, making huge tanks for the acid plant at Roxby Downs copper and uranium mine.

He turned his hand to installing satellite dishes for pay-television services before joining the Port Augusta power station to work in the instrumentation section. He retired in 2005 as technical officer in the instrumentation division at the station.

By then he had spent about six years in Port Germein after marrying Denise. Asked about the “formula for all living things” and whether it had turned out fortunate for him, he replied: “I have no idea”

He said it had been a “shock” to come to Australia.

“If it had not been for Denise, I would have left 30 years ago. I would have gone back to Norway,” he said.

“When I came to Australia, I was not a British subject. They didn’t even have to recognise my qualifications.”

But he was happy to say that by living Down Under he had fortunately met his wife and become a “father figure” to her children.