About the Foundation

Georg Unger Vetlesen

Georg Unger Vetlesen and the Vetlesen Foundation

Georg Unger Vetlesen was born in the seaport city of Oslo, the son of a well-known Norwegian surgeon. From his early years, he loved the sea, and at the age of eleven signed on as a crew member on a ship bound for Copenhagen.

Later, he studied in England, earning degrees in naval architecture and mechanical engineering from the Imperial Institute of London, and worked with a British shipbuilding firm. In 1913, the young Vetlesen went to Canada where he worked as a miner. In 1916 he came to the United States, which henceforth was his permanent home. He was in the shipbuilding business for many years.

In the 1930’s the Vetlesens acquired the 202-ft. vessel Vema, a three-masted schooner on which they spent many pleasurable days at sea. The beautiful vessel, with her almost indestructible Swedish steel hull, is still active and has become renowned as one of the world’s most productive oceanographic research vessels. Vema was acquired by Columbia University in 1953 and was for many years a principal research ship of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (then the Lamont Geological Observatory). It was later purchased by a charter cruise company and restored to its former status as a luxury cruise ship.

During World War II, Mr. Vetlesen worked with untiring devotion both for his adopted country and his native Norway. His contribution to the rebuilding of the Royal Norwegian Air Force will always be remembered. In 1943 he joined the United States Navy, with the rank of Commander and was assigned to Special Forces headquarters in London to work with the Norwegian resistance.

After the war, Mr. Vetlesen served as president and chairman of the United States company representing the Norwegian American Line, and was a founder and chairman of the board of Scandinavian Airlines System, Inc., which began transatlantic operations in 1946. One of his main tasks during his later years was to help make a smooth-running organization of a company with three owners: Sweden, Denmark and Norway. His contributions to this end were remarkable.

G. Unger Vetlesen established the foundation which bears his name shortly before his death in 1955. In addition to the Vetlesen Prize, the foundation provides support in the Earth sciences for institutions of excellence.

The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation
(founded in 1955 by the late Georg Unger Vetlesen)

Suite 301
One Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020-2102
Phone: 212-586-0700,  212-586-0700
Fax: 212-245-1863