Fridtjof Nansen

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Fridtjof Nansen
Head and shoulders portrait of Fridtjof Nansen, facing half-right. He has close-cropped hair, a wide, fair moustache and is wearing a heavy fur coat.
Born(1861-10-10)10 October 1861
Store Frøen, Christiania (now called Oslo), Norway
Died13 May 1930(1930-05-13) (aged 68)
Cause of deathHeart attack
EducationThe Royal Frederick University
Occupation(s)Scientist, explorer, humanitarian
Spouse(s)Eva Sars (died 1 December 1907)
Sigrun Munthe
Children2 daughters, 3 sons
Parent(s)Baldur Nansen and Adelaide (née Wedel-Jarlsberg) Nansen
AwardsNobel Peace Prize (1922)
Kongelige Norske St. Olavs Orden
Order of the Dannebrog
National Order of the Legion of Honor
Order of St. Stanislaus
Cullum Geographical Medal (1897)
Vega Medal (1889)

Constantine Medal (1907)

Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen (10 October 1861 – 13 May 1930) was a Norwegian explorer, historian, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. From 1922 to 1927, Nansen was the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Career[change | change source]

In his youth a champion skier and ice skater, he led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888, and won international fame after reaching a record northern latitude of 86°14′ during his North Pole expedition of 1893–96. Although he retired from exploration after his return to Norway, his techniques of polar travel and his innovations in equipment and clothing influenced later Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.

Nansen as a student in Christiania

Nansen studied zoology at the Royal Frederick University, and later worked as a curator at the Bergen Museum where his research on the central nervous system of lower marine creatures earned him a doctorate and helped establish modern theories of neurology. After 1896 his main scientific interest switched to oceanography; in the course of his research he made many scientific cruises, mainly in the North Atlantic, and contributed to the development of modern oceanographic equipment. As one of his country's leading citizens, in 1905 Nansen spoke out for the ending of Norway's union with Sweden, and was instrumental in persuading Prince Charles of Denmark to accept the throne of the newly independent Norway. Between 1906 and 1908 he served as the Norwegian representative in London, where he helped negotiate the Integrity Treaty that guaranteed Norway's independent status.

In the final decade of his life Nansen devoted himself primarily to the League of Nations, following his appointment in 1921 as the League's High Commissioner for Refugees. In 1922 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the displaced victims of the First World War and related conflicts. Among the initiatives he introduced was the "Nansen passport" for stateless persons, a certificate recognised by more than 50 countries.

Death and honors[change | change source]

He worked on behalf of refugees until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1930, after which the League established the Nansen International Office for Refugees to ensure that his work continued. This office received the Nobel Peace Prize for 1938. Nansen was honoured by many nations, and his name is commemorated in numerous geographical features, particularly in the polar regions.

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Abrams, Irwin (2001). The Nobel Peace Prize and the Lauretes: an illustrated biographical history 1901–2001. Nantucket MA: Watson Publishing International. ISBN 9780881353884.
  • Amundsen, Roald (1912). The South Pole, Vol. II. London: John Murray.
  • Berton, Pierre (1988). The Arctic Grail. New York: Viking Penguin.
  • Brøgger, Waldemar Christofer and Rolfsen, Nordahl (translated by William Archer (1896)). Fridtiof Nansen 1861–1893. New York. Longmans Green & Co.
  • Fleming, Fergus (2002). Ninety Degrees North. London: Granta Publications.
  • Gibney, Matthew J.; Harrison, Randall (2005). Immigration and Asylum from 1900 to the Present: Volume 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.[permanent dead link]
  • Huntford, Roland (2001). Nansen. London: Abacus. (First published in 1997 by Gerald Duckworth)
  • Jackson, Frederick (1935). The Lure of Unknown Lands. London: G. Bell and Sons.
  • Nansen, Fridtjof (tr. H.M. Gepp) (1890). The First Crossing of Greenland. London: Longmans, Green. ISBN 9781108031097.
  • Nansen, Fridtjof (1897). Farthest North, Volumes I and II. London: Archibald Constable & Co. ISBN 9781602392373. also available on Project Gutenberg
  • Pollock, Frederick (2003). The League of Nations. Clark, New Jersey: The Lawbook Exchange Ltd. ISBN 9781584772477.
  • Reynolds, E.E. (1949). Nansen. Harmondsworth (UK): Penguin Books.
  • Scott, J.M. (1971). Fridtjof Nansen. Sheridan, Oregon: Heron Books.
  • Hestmark, Geir (1991): Fridtjof Nansen and the Geology of the Arctic. Earth Sciences History 12: 168-212.
  • Hestmark, G. (1995): Fridtjof Nansen and the Spirit of Northern Wilderness. In: Vance G. Martin & Nicholas Tyler: Arctic Wilderness - The 5th World Wilderness Congress. North American Press, Golden, Colorado. pp. 113–117.
  • Hestmark, Geir (1999). Vitenskap og nasjon - Waldemar Christopher Brøgger 1851-1905. Oslo, Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard). 890 pp.

Other websites[change | change source]