The Leprosy Conference in Bergen in 1909

The second International Leprosy Conference was held in Bergen in 1909. From 16–19 August, around 180 participants from 30 countries and four continents met, including numerous prominent figures within medicine of the time. Not surprisingly, Armauer Hansen was president, and H. P. Lie was secretary general. The congress was held under the patronage of King Haakon VII, who was also present.

The proposal to hold the congress in Bergen had reportedly already been raised during the first International Leprosy Conference in Berlin 12 years earlier. Several years before the conference, numerous enquiries were sent from Bergen to gauge support for an international conference in Bergen. The responses expressed an ‘unreserved tribute to Norwegian leprosy researchers’.

The proceedings of the conference were printed in three volumes. They show that Armauer Hansen’s belief that leprosy was an infectious disease had gained acceptance all over the world. The volumes have been digitised and made available in the Digital Archives:
First volume
Second volume
Third volume

Participants at the congress 1909. Photo: Brundtland. Leprosy Museum St. Jørgen's Hospital.
The participants of the conference. Hansen, who was president, is seated in the middle of the front row with a light-coloured hat in his lap, and secretary general H. P. Lie is seated to the right wearing a top hat.
Newspaper showing the participants at the congress 1909.
Photograph and list of participants from one of the city’s newspapers, which writes that the leprosy conference in Bergen is the biggest conference ever assembled in a Nordic country.
Photo: Bergen City Museum.

From the opening ceremony at the congress in 1909. Photo: Herman Werner. University of Bergen Library.
There are not many photos of the conference itself. This one from the opening ceremony is of low quality, but it is possible to see that Hansen is seated in the middle with his head under the wreath hanging on the podium.
Photo: Herman Werner. The University of Bergen Library.
Letter from Armauer Hansen to Dr. Gade, 1909. Bergen City Archive.
Hansen had become an elderly man by 1909. In a letter to his friend Hermann Gade whom he would visit he writes: ‘Dear Colleague. In order to save my energy for the Leprosy Conference, I am thinking of skipping the medical meeting in Bergen and on that occasion, I allow myself to ask if you would be able and willing to accommodate me during those days. Sincerely, G. A. Hansen’.
Bergen City Archives.
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