Bjorn Kjellstrom, who founded the company that makes the most popular compass in the world and later introduced the sport of orienteering to North America, died Saturday in a hospital in Stockholm.
He was 84 years old. His family said he died of complications of Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Kjellstrom (pronounced SHELL-strum) was born in Sweden and became a national champion there in ski orienteering. The low-cost sport involves the use of a map and a compass to move quickly over unknown forest terrain from one control point to another. Competition is on foot in warmer weather, on skis in the winter.
When he began, compasses had no restraints to keep the needle from swinging. In 1932, he, his brothers Alvar and Alvid, and Gunnar Tillander invented the Silva System (Silva is the Latin word for forest). It combined a compass with a protractor built into the base.
Their invention made it faster and easier to use and read the compass. The protractor baseplate allowed users to take more accurate bearings from maps. The brittle magnetic needle stopped moving in the compass liquid within four seconds as opposed to up to 30 seconds in older compasses.
In 1946, Mr. Kjellstrom came to the United States and started the Silva Compass Company in LaPorte, Ind. In 1948, he founded Silva Ltd., in Toronto. Johnson Wax bought the American company in 1973 and the Canadian company in 1985.
A spokesman for the Johnson Worldwide Associates in Racine, Wis., said more than a half-million Silva compasses were sold in the United States annually, making it the industry leader. The compass is made in 50 models. More than 25 million have been sold, mostly to hunters, campers and the military, helped by such marketing slogans as "Read this or get lost."
Mr. Kjellstrom's 1955 book, "Be Expert With Map and Compass" (MacMillan, revised 1994), has sold more than 500,000 copies in English-language editions. It has also been published in French, Italian and Chinese.
He was a shrewd businessman. Just after World War II, he started selling Silva compasses to Canadian stores for $3, with the stores to re-sell them for $5. When he arrived at the Eatons department store in Winnipeg, he learned the 100 compasses they bought were selling slowly, so they had put the 80 remaining compasses on sale for $2 each.
"Without identifying myself at that stage," he recalled, "I offered to buy their entire stock for $1.50 a compass. Then I went more or less around the corner to a couple of sporting-goods stores, not customers as yet, and sold the compasses to them for $3 net."
He introduced orienteering to the United States in 1946 and co-founded the United States Orienteering Federation in 1971. He later became the organization's president emeritus. He helped bring the 1993 orienteering world championships to Harriman State Park near West Point, N.Y. He was vice president of the International Ski Federation from 1951 to 1979.
Since the 1950's, he had lived in Pound Ridge, N.Y., where he helped develop the trail system in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.
He is survived by his wife, Kathi Kjellstrom of Pound Ridge; five children, Dr. Bjorn Kjellstrom Jr. of Trosa, Sweden; Dr. Tord Kjellstrom of Geneva, Laila Kjellstrom of Edinburgh, Rolf Kjellstrom of Stockholm and Carina Elgin of The Plains, Va., and eight grandchildren.
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