Fridtjof Nansen Biography

(Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the First High Commissioner for Refugees Appointed by the League of Nations)

Birthday: October 10, 1861 (Libra)

Born In: Oslo, Norway

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian scientist, explorer, humanitarian, and diplomat, best known for winning the ‘Nobel Peace Prize.’ Born and raised in Christiania, Norway, Fridtjof was extremely adventurous as a kid. He was not too interested in academics and spent most of his time playing sports or engaging in activities such as expeditions into the forests. Hence, he had developed self-reliance early in his life. Following his high-school graduation, he joined the ‘Royal Frederick University’ to study zoology. Soon after graduating college, he began working as a curator at the ‘University Museum of Bergen.’ He started his research on the central nervous system of lower marine creatures. He also crossed Greenland in October 1888. He later embarked on many scientific expeditions into the North Atlantic Ocean, having shifted his focus to oceanography. In 1906, began his tenure as a representative for Norway in London and became an important factor in Norway attaining its freedom from Sweden. He worked for the ‘League of Nations’ during the final years of his life and focused on solving the refugee crisis after the World War I. In 1922, he was honored with a ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ for his work toward helping the displaced victims of World War I.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen

Died At Age: 68


Spouse/Ex-: Sigrun Munthe (m. 1909), Eva Nansen (m. 1889–1907)

father: Baldur Fridtjof Nansen

mother: Adelaide Johanne Thekla Isidore Bølling Wedel-Jarlsberg

siblings: Alexander Christinius, Alexsander Nansen, Emil Thedor Bølling, Hans M. Nansen, Hedvig Karen Ida Bølling, Leopold N. E. Bølling, Sigrid Louise Bølling

children: Irmelin Nansen, Kåre Nansen, Liv Nansen, Odd Nansen

Born Country: Norway

Nobel Peace Prize Explorers

Died on: May 13, 1930

place of death: Polhøgda, Norway

Ancestry: Danish Norwegian

Notable Alumni: Royal Frederick University

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

City: Oslo, Norway

More Facts

education: Royal Frederick University

awards: 1897 - Cullum Geographical Medal
1891 - Patron's Gold Medal

Childhood & Early Life
Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen was born on October 10, 1861, in Aker, Norway, to Baldur Fridtjof Nansen and Adelaide Wedel-Jarlsberg. His father worked as a lawyer at the ‘Supreme Court of Norway.’ Fridtjof was born from his second marriage.
He was the middle child of the three children in the family. However, since his older sibling had died as an infant, he grew up as the elder of the two remaining children.
Fridtjof grew up in rural surroundings, amidst nature, where swimming and fishing were his favorite leisure activities.
In the winters, Fridtjof loved skiing on snow. In fact, he had started skiing at the age of 2. However, he suffered a terrible skiing accident when he was 10, almost losing, his life. His passion for skiing, however, never waned away. Despite his parents’ warnings, he continued skiing.
Fridtjof studied at local schools but was not too interested in academics. He loved sports and adventure instead. He scored average grades in school and often embarked on long expeditions into the forests. Sometimes, he would be gone into the forests for many days at a time. This also made him self-sufficient and reliant quite early in life, a skill which later helped him greatly as an adult.
Upon growing up, he became an accomplished skier and skater. However, tragedy struck the family when Fridtjof ’s mother passed away suddenly in 1877. He, along with his father and younger sibling, moved a few kilometers away, to a new house in Christiania, where he continued his sporting activities.
At the age of 18, he broke the fastest one-mile skating world record and won the ‘National Cross-Country Skiing’ championship. He later went on to win the championship 11 times in a row.
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In 1880, he began studying zoology at the ‘Royal Frederick University.’ He thought that pursuing a career in zoology would allow him to travel and lead an adventurous life. In 1882, one of his professors in college understood his potential and advised him to venture into an expedition to the Arctic Ocean and study zoology there.
Fridtjof’s trip was a success, as he ended up studying and recording things such as the formation of Arctic ice and facts about the Gulf Stream. He was the first man in history to claim that Greenland could be traversed. By then, he had found a keen interest in the work that he was doing, and as a result, he dropped out of university.
He took up a job at the ‘University Museum of Bergen,’ where he spent the next 6 years of his life. There, he ardently studied the central nervous system of lower marine creatures.
However, he could never stop thinking about crossing Greenland. He finally readied himself to embark on an expedition to Greenland, which was the first expedition of its kind. Fridtjof gathered a team and made a plan that did not include turning back as an option. To maximize his chances of succeeding in his mission, he decided to travel toward the west from eastern Greenland.
The expedition, which began in June, ended on October 3, 1888, with Fridtjof and his team of explorers landing in Godthaab (modern-day Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland). He was greeted there by the local Danish town representative. It had taken them 49 days to make the extremely difficult journey. Fridtjof and his team spent the next 7 months in Greenland and sent letters to Norway.
Fridtjof then returned to Norway and spent a year resting. He also got married. He declared that the North Pole was his next target. He was aware of the polar currents that could destroy his ship. He, however, planned to use the currents for his own benefit.
In 1889, Fridtjof ordered the construction of a unique ship that could survive in the harshest weather conditions. It also had a shelter for travelers, if they were to remain stuck in an iceberg for a few months. In the end, the expedition to the North Pole was unsuccessful, but the attempt opened ways for many future explorers.
By the early 1900s, Fridtjof had started considering himself too old to go on any more risky adventures. He stepped into politics in the early 1900s and played a key role in Norway securing its independence from Sweden in 1905. Before that, he had tried to have a consular service for Norway, separate from that of Sweden’s. When that did not happen, independence remained the only option. He also asked Prince Carl of Denmark to take the throne of the independent Norway.
He was sent as Norway’s first minister to London in 1906. This was done in order to establish Norway’s reputation as a free country. He also successfully negotiated the ‘Integrity Treaty,’ which established Norway as a free country. He came back to Norway in 1908.
In 1921, he was appointed as the ‘League of Nations’ high commissioner for refugees. He worked ardently toward helping the World War I victims resettle. His efforts earned him the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ in 1922.
He also introduced the ‘Nansen Passport’ for those who were displaced in the war. He was lauded for his efforts. He was also awarded with honors such as the ‘Legion of Honor’ and the ‘Constantine Medal.’
Family, Personal Life & Death
Fridtjof Nansen married Eva Sars in 1889. She was an accomplished skier and the daughter of a zoology professor. They had met through Eva’s father. Fridtjof and Eva had five children together.
However, in 1919, he married another woman named Sigrun Munthe. He had had a long-time affair with her, which had started when his first wife was still alive.
His second marriage ceremony was said to be a dull affair, as his children from his first marriage resented the act.
Fridtjof passed away from a heart attack on May 13, 1930. He was 68 years old at the time of his death.

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