The General assembly in Copenhagen, 2008

The first bi-annual General Assembly took place at the of May 2008 in the old school of Malling-Hansen, the former Royal Institute for the deaf-mutes in Kastelvej of Copenhagen. All the participants signed this memory poster from the meeting. Copyright: Sverre Avnskog
One of the many highlights from the weekend, was the unveiling of the plate in memory of Malling-Hansen in front of the house where he was born in Hunseby, in the south of Denmark. The unveiling was conducted by the president of the Society, and the present Count of Knuthenborg and his wife. Photo: Sverre Avnskog




In May 2008 it was time for the second great event in the history of The International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society. Once again the members gathered in Copenhagen on Malling-Hansen's old school, and as two years before at the Founding Meeting, a wonderful weather in Copenhagen greeted us welcome.


Now it was time for the first bi-annual General Assembly, and more that 30 people from USA and several countries in Europe attended the event, which lasted for two days. As two years before, Jan William Rasmussen of "Døvehistorisk Selskab", had reserved localities at the School for the deaf for us, and an exhibition of Malling-Hansen items and documents was set up before the beginning of the meeting. It later also turned out that Jan William Rasmussen had prepared a special exhibition in the Museum in the basement of the school of old Malling-Hansen letters and documents and several other things showing the life of the pupils and the history of the teaching of the deaf in Denmark. This was a truly fantastic experience for the interested attendants - and could only be described as a gold mine for the Malling-Hansen research!




The participants were welcomed by the president of The International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society, Christian Barnholdt from Denmark
Both USA and several countries in Europe were represented by the attendants - Germany, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Also present were a lot of descendants after Malling-Hansen and his brother Johan Frederik Hansen. Both photos: Dieter Eberwein
The first point on the program, was an exciting movie about the life and work of RMH, made by Jan William Rasmussen and his son, Thomas William Rasmussen. The movie can be watched at the homepage of The Historic Society of the Deaf, where Jan William for many years has been the leading force. The comments was written and read by Jan William, and showed many interesting aspects of the development of the education of the deaf, and of the multi faceted personality of Malling-Hansen. Jan William has done a large work to make the history of the education of the deaf known, and a visit to the website he has built up together with his son, Thomas William is highly recommended. See their Malling-Hansen movie on this link: Photo: Dieter Eberwein
The RMH Society owes Jan William great thanks for his very generous attitude towards us. He has provided us with a large material of old photos and documents! This photo was taken at the Founding Meeting in 2006 where he also played an important role! Photo: Sverre Avnskog
The president of the RMH Society honored Jan William Rasmussen and showed the society's great thankfulness to him by donating him a copy of the famous painting of Malling-Hansen and his best friends playing l'Hombre in the home of Erik Ritzau. The original painting was made by Malthe Engelstedt in 1887, and is owned by Anna Ritzau in Kalunborg. It was exhibited on the large Industry- Agricultural- and Art exhibition in Copenhagen in 1888. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
Jan William also guided the participants on a tour around in the fantastic museum he has built up in the basement of the old institute. And he had prepared a special exhibition showing many new and unknown documents about the work of RMH. We could only take out our cameras and do our best to make copies to bring home with us, and luckily one of our vice presidents had also brought his scanner! Photo: Dieter Eberwein
Then it was Niels Ole Faurholts turn to present the exciting story about the cryptographic writing ball, that was built by the Danish engineer, Alex Køhl,but never was a great success, unfortunately. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
Niels O.Faurholt, born 1934. Officer 1956-74. Head of department in the Danish intelligence service 1974-2000. Trustee for the technical/historical collection same place 2001-. Specially interested in old crypto logical systems and instruments. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
Alexis Køhl, engineer (1846-1920). Decorated with the Danish Medal of Merit in Gold. He built a cryptographic writing ball based on the principles invented by RMH
"The crucial difference from the basic writing ball is that the ring with the 24 letter keys can be turned 360 degrees, independently of the underlying print rods and the central upper structure. This means that any one of the 24 letter keys can activate any one of the 24 print rods." From Mr. Faurholts article about the cryptographic writing ball. Photo: Niels Ole Faurholt
Christian Barnholdt then presented one of our vice presidents, who is probably is the most skilled person in the world on the subject of the writing ball. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
In his lecture Dieter presented new information about the early patent models of the writing ball, and he also showed for the first time a 3D computer model of the large table model from the first Danish patent application in 1870. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
The first patent drawing from January 1870 shows two different models of the writing ball - one with a flat paper-frame, that could be moved by the means of hand power, and one large table model with a sylinder that was set in circulation with the help of the foot
A picture from Dieter Eberwein's 3D computer model of the table model. Was it ever built? We don't know for sure, but many sources state that the first writing ball model weighed 75 kg, and the first box-model only weighed 9 kg without batteries. At that time the most modern batteries weighed not more than 10 kg. Copyright: Dieter Eberwein
When it came to the refreshments Jan William Rasmussen really surprised us all when he brought in the cakes; What a wonderful way to celebrate the event? Two delicious chocolate cakes formed as the keyboard of a writing ball! Photo: Sverre Avnskog
It was the first and probably only time in our lives where we actually ate writing balls! Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Some lovely gifts were also donated before it was time to gather around for the actual General Assembly. Christian Barnholdt received this splendid T-shirt with RMH motives from Jan William Rasmussen. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
And RMH descendant Lars Mathiesen received these beautiful photos from Dieter Eberwein. The motive is the mini writing ball, that is owned by Mr. Mathiesen, and which has been restored by Mr. Eberwein. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
Dieter Eberwein also gave away some of his lovely writing ball art work; one each to "Mr. President", Christian Barnholdt, and vice president and webmaster, Sverre Avnskog. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
There are always some matters of the more formal sort that has to be discussed during a General Assembly. The meeting was lead by Christian Barnholdt. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
While the scanner of Sverre Avnskog went warm as he tried to speed it up scanning all the fantastic old documents that Jan William Rasmussen had supplied for the meeting! Photo: Dieter Eberwein
The exciting and enriching spring day in Copenhagen was topped with a garden party in the lovely garden of Lars Mathiesen and his family, where all the participants had the great pleasure of enjoying the famous Danish hospitality! Photo: Dieter Eberwein
We also enjoyed the delicious Danish kitchen, and the meat was prepared by Lars Mathiesen's daughter, Liv Flindt Mathiesen, and his nephew, Mathias Jørgen Mathiesen. By the way: Nobody went into the water pool, though many was tempted! It was a little too cold in the water... Photo: Dieter Eberwein
Around a large table in the garden, the rest of the evening was spent, enjoying the excellent food and drink, and enjoying each others company! Photo: Dieter Eberwein
As many of the members have doing research about RMH and his inventions for decades, there were many exciting stories to share with each other. And relatives that had never seen each other, finally met and could exchange memories about their common ancestors. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
A little speech was at its place, to thank Lars Mathiesen and his family for their hospitality and great effort to make a barbecue- and garden party to all the participants. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
And of course the Society had to show their gratefulness by donating a copy of the famous painting of RMH and the card-playing friends of Lars' great-grandfather. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
Two Danish gentlemen are entertaining one of the female participants, who made probably the longest journey to take part in the event; Kate Bech, descendant from RMH's daughter Zarah, married to Fritz August Bech. The gentlemen are Nils Ole Faurholt(left) and Palle Westberg, former principal at the school for the deaf. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Two of the youngest participants also seemed to enjoy themselves; Sverre Avnskog's wife Wan and daughter Amina. Wan originates from Thailand, and maybe she is speaking Tai with Jørgen Malling Christensen, member of the board? Together with them; Jørgen's mother, Lotte. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
After a good night's sleep and after a couple of hours drive to the southern part of Denmark, the members gathered again at the very house where Malling-Hansen was born in 1835, and spent his childhood. Lotte Malling and the other participants had to wait some minutes for the most prominent guests. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
And soon they arrived, the Count and Countess of Knuthenborg. Christopher Knuth's forefather, Frederik Marcus Knuth, was the economic benefactor of Malling-Hansen and of many other gifted local boys, and thanks to his economical support, Malling-Hansen was ably to study at the Jonstrup training collage for teachers and later to study theology. Lotte Malling wished the prominent couple welcome. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The Count of Knuthenborg and the President of The Malling-Hansen Society performed the unveiling of a memory plate outside the childhood home of Malling-Hansen together. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
And afterwords they took a good look at the solid memory plate, which was actually made in Thailand. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
All important information about Malling-Hansen is listed on the memory plate. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
The view of the old school building with the memory plate in front of it. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
The whole essambly then drove to the home of the Count and the Countess. In front of the building a statue of one of the former Counts met us. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The manor was built in 1864 and is an imposing and beautiful building made of red bricks. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The members of the Society listened with great interest to the exciting story about the Counts through the history, and especially of course, when it came to Frederik Marcus Knuth, RMH's benefactor. RMH also was the house teacher for the children of the Count and Countess for a year or so after he had finished his teacher's training course at Jonstrup. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
The wall of the manor was decorated with old paintings of the persons that RMH very often wrote about in his letters. The Counts of Knuthenborg never became very old, and RMH had contact with at least three of them during his lifetime. One of them also donated a sum of money to the production of writing balls. Photo: Dieter Eberwein
Then in the afternoon it was time for the last event during this wonderful weekend in Denmark; a visit to Hunseby church, the church where RMH was babtized and had his confirmation. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The present vicar of the church guided us around, and told us the history of the church. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The church had a wonderful interior in all its details, and especially the alter was amazingly beautiful. It gave a special feeling standing there, knowing that this was the place where RMH decided that he wanted to become a priest himself. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The Counts of Knuthenborg had also played an important role in the history of the church, as economic supporters, and Frederik Marcus Knuth was honored with a bust in the entrance hall. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The weeken soon approached its ending and our minds were filled with impressions from all the events. As for myself, I had a great whish to do just one more thing before I left Copenhagen this time. Since we had a couple of hours before our plane left, I managed to talk my wife into taking a walk along the rout that RMH followed at the last evening of his life. And I conclude this small presentation of the General Assembly 2008 with a photo of the place in Nyboder, Copenhagen, where RMH fell down on the ground on a dark September evening in 1890. He was walking along towards the viewer, when he was suddenly struck by a heart attach and fell dead to the ground. A doctor soon arrived at the place, but could only confirm that he was already dead, and his body was brought into the yellow building showed on the photo, which in those days had the address Leopardlængen. A great and eventful life was over, and so was a great weekend in Copenhagen for all the participants of The International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society. Photo: Sverre Avnskog



View the movie from the General Assembly 2008 on this link to the website of Historical Society of the Deaf in Denmark:


Oslo, 22.05.10

Sverre Avnskog






All the participants gathered around the old memory stone that was moved from the Garnison graveyard to the Institute in 1947, on an initiative of the three remaining daughters of Malling-Hansen, Karen, Emma and Engelke. Photo: Thomas William Rasmussen
This article was published a few days after the General Assembly in the Danish local newspaper, "Lolland Falster Folketidende".