Fridtjof Nansen

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Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen (born October 10, 1861 in Store Frøen, near Kristiania, now Oslo - died May 13, 1930 in Lysaker, outside Oslo) was a Norwegian explorer, scientist and diplomat. Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his work as a League of Nations High Commissioner.

Arctic exploration

Nansen made his first voyage to Greenland waters in a sealing ship 1882, and in 1888 succeeded in crossing the Greenland icefield on skis from east to west with Otto Sverdrup, Olaf Dietrichson, Kristian Kristiansen Trana, Samuel Balto and Ole Nielsen Ravna. In 1893, he sailed to the Arctic in the Fram (a purpose-built, round-hulled ship later used by Roald Amundsen to transport his expedition to Antarctica) which was deliberately allowed to drift north through the ice, a journey that took more than three years. During this first crossing of the Arctic Ocean the expedition became the first to discover the existence of a deep polar basin. When, after more than one year in the ice it became apparent that Fram would not reach the North Pole, Nansen, accompanied by Hjalmar Johansen (18671913), continued north on foot and, in April 1895, reached 86° 14´ N, the highest latitude then attained. The two men were forced to spend the winter, surviving on walrus blubber and polar bear meat, on Franz Josef Land, where they eventually, in the summer of 1896, connected with a British expedition led by Frederick George Jackson.

Academic career and scientific works

Nansen was a professor of zoology and later oceanography at the Royal Frederick University in Oslo and contributed with groundbreaking works in the fields of neurology and fluid dynamics.

Nansen was one of the founders of the neuron theory stating that the neural network consists of individual cells communicating with each other.

Nansen did extensive research into the behavior and origin of ocean currents, following his experiences from the Fram expedition. He was, together with the Swedish mathematician V. Walfrid Ekman, deeply involved in the discovery of how currents are generated from the planetary rotation and the formulation of the theory of the Ekman spiral that explains the phenomenon. He also invented a bottle for collection of water samples from various depths known as the Nansen bottle that, further developed by Shale Niskin, is still in use.

Diplomatic and political career

Before Norway's dissolution of its union with Sweden on 7 June 1905, Nansen had been a devoted republican, along with other prominent Norwegians like the authors Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Arne Garborg. However, after convincing argument by Sigurd Ibsen and others, Nansen changed his position (as did Bjørnson and Garborg) and was thereafter influential in convincing Prince Carl of Denmark that he should accept the position as king of Norway. In a referendum where the Norwegian electorate chose between a monarchy and a republic, Nansen campaigned for monarchy, certain it was the right thing for Norway, although the general view was that Nansen would be elected President if Norwegians chose republican rule. Carl was crowned as King Haakon VII after the referendum results indicated Norwegians' strong preference for monarchy.

Following Norway's independence, Nansen was appointed as the Norwegian ambassador in London (1906-08) becoming a close friend of King Edward and assuring support from Britain in the campaign for an international guarantee of Norwegian territorial integrity.

In the period between the wars there was an unsuccessful effort on Nansen's behalf to make him the Prime Minister in a broad government based on all the non-socialist parties to counter the growth of Arbeiderpartiet, the Norwegian labour party. In 1925 he co-founded Fedrelandslaget (The Fatherland Society), an anti-socialist political organisation that folded at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The League of Nations

After World War I, Nansen became involved in the League of Nations as a High Commissioner for several initatives, including organisation of exchange of war prisoners and help to Russian refugees, in which campaign he originated the Nansen passport for refugees. For his work in service of the League of Nations he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

Posthumous honors

Fridtjof Nansen has had many honors awarded posthumously among which are:


  • Nansen, F. (1999). Farthest North. New York: Modern Library. (English translation of Nansen's own account of the Fram journey.)
  • Huntford, Roland. (1997). Nansen. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.
  • Nansen, Fridtjof (1911). In Northern Mists. Arctic Exploration in Early Times . London: Heinemann. 2 vols.
  • Nansen, Fridtjof (1895). The First Crossing of Greenland.Longmans Green.

External links

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