Fridtjof Nansen – Birth, Family, Education, Explorer, Statesman, Nobel Prize and Death

Fridtjof Nansen


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Fridtjof Nansen was born on 10th October 1861 at Store Frøen near Kristiana (presently known as Oslo). Nansen’s childhood was spent in Store Frøen where he had his daily routine of swimming and fishing in the summers, hunting game in the forests during the autumn season and skiing during the cold winters. He became a master at these activities while practicing them during these different seasons only. Fridtjof since childhood had a keen interest in these activities and also in other things than academics.




Nansen’s father Baldur Fridtjof Nansen was a religious man and a prosperous lawyer. Nansen’s father married twice and after the second marriage, he settled at Store Frøen. Nansen’s mother Adelaide Johanne was an independent and strong woman because of whom her children kept outside always and learned and practiced such activities regularly. She was an athlete person too. Nansen’s parents had three children. Out of the three the first child died in infancy only and Nansen was the youngest of all, the third child. Nansen’s family was originally from Denmark then they shifted to Copenhagen and further to Store Frøen. Nansen’s grandfather was an explorer of the White Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. The family had its past related to the voyage and discovery of places and so did Nansen become further.

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Academics were not a priority to him ever. He was much interested in all the other activities except studying in the school. His grades were also average. Nansen did his schooling from a school in Kristiana (now Oslo). He passed an entrance examination in 1880 which led him to make his way to the university He took admission at the Royal Frederick University in Kristiana. As he was not very much interested in the academic life and loved sports, he chose zoology as his subject in the university so that he would remain outside in the forests for his work and enjoy open-air as he used to do earlier. He became an explorer at first when his professor at the university gave him to take a sea voyage and study the Arctic zoology which began in March 1882. So, he was a great athlete and a sportsperson who had less interest in his studies. He took up expeditions and many scientific activities later in his life too.

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As an Explorer


In March 1882 he was supposed to take up a sea voyage to the Arctic Ocean. He was to take up the seal hunting process known as sealing and to do it through Viking. So it came to be known as the Sealer Viking. The voyage extended for five months where the Viking roamed between the Greenland and Spitsbergen in search of seals. The Viking was stuck in the ice near the Greenland coast which wasn’t discovered till then and Nansen was curious to discover it and so he made a plan to explore the Greenland icecap. Soon the Viking got free and they returned back to Norway.

Another expedition was taken up by him in 1890 through the ship called ‘Fram’. Fram was a ship whose shape was proposed by Nansen himself. It was to be designed in such a way that it will lift itself automatically as soon as there is a possibility of it being stuck in the ice. This idea was given by Nansen to the Norwegian Geographical Society. His plan of crossing the Arctic Ocean and reaching Spitsbergen from Siberia was criticized by a lot many explorers at that time, but Nansen was determined and did not let any negative thought enter his mind. So, Fram carrying Nansen accompanied with 13 other men sailed from Kristiana on 24th June 1893.

The Fram sailed smoothly through the waters and worked according to Nansen’s ideas wherever it got stuck in the ice. After some days, Fram’s swiftness got disturbed and they had to take a rest on the Frederick Jackson Island (Nansen named this Island as the same after Frederick Jackson whom he and his companions encountered on their ahead) staying there from 26th August 1895 to 19th May 1896. Now moving from there and on their way to Spitsbergen, they killed Frederick Jackson and capturing his ship ‘Windward’, they sailed to Norway. Fram also sailed smoothly to Kristiana and there happened a feast on their return to Kristiana with a successful expedition. The news of Nansen and his companions crossing the Greenland icecap reached Kristiana before they reached there. The return of the people leads to a feast involving a lot of many countrymen hanging up in the streets to welcome Nansen and his fellow companions. The University from where he studied offered him the post of a curator in the University’s zoology department and Nansen accepted it. He became an explorer with his first expedition on his proposed ship Fram.

His marriage

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Nansen was strongly against marriage earlier and his marriage was a great question mark to all as he always opposed marriage in his life.

On 11th August 1889 Nansen’s engagement with Eva Sars was fixed. Eva Sars was the daughter of a zoology professor named Michael Sars who left Eva when she was just 11 years old. Eva was an expert in Skiing and they both also met each other at a skiing resort in Frognerseteren. Eva was three years older than Nansen. Eva was an independent woman and was also a fantastic classical singer and an expert at skiing too. The wedding bells rang on 6th September 1889 and they both married to each other happily.


Appointed as the First Minister

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His life went on writing documents and scripts about his journey and also serving the Royal Frederick University as a curator, further he became a professor in the same university and continued to serve the university with full enthusiasm.

In April 1906 Nansen stepped in the political life where he was appointed as Norway’s first Minister in London. His workload increased and while remaining in the post of the Minister in London he had his tasks of working with the representatives of the other European powers in the Integrity Treaty to work for Norway’s position in the whole world. Nansen got familiar with the king of England at that time, King Edward and maintained his contacts. Again to carry on his interests and not to deviate from his favorite paths he continued to tie up with some of the learned bodies like the Royal Geographical Society and the others. Nansen completed his work in the Treaty which got signed on 2nd November 1907. He resigned from the post as the first minister in London on the 15th of November in the same year.

A setback was received by Nansen after some time that his wife Eva was suffering from pneumonia and he departed from England the very day, but while he was returning he received the news of Eva’s death. He could not take that and left everything, his works, and other activities for a certain period of time. After recovering from his wife’s death after a certain period, he left for London to continue his works and to move forward with his interests.

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A Statesman


Being interested in the relationship between the nations and the individuals and also interested to take part actively in the country’s decisions, he became a true statesman. During World War I in 1917, he was appointed as the head of the Norwegian commission by the Norway government for requesting the United States to take a look at the imported supplies from the U.S. to Norway. Nansen made his strong way into the government of Norway and worked for the country. Also, he was chosen as a representative for most of the great tasks which included different nations too. In 1920, he became the head of Norway delegation at the first assembly of the League of Nations. As a statesman, he was also given a very great task where he was appointed as the high commissioner in extraditing 500,000 prisoners from the war of Germany from Russia. This task was very long and continued till two years when finally he announced that 427,886 prisoners have been returned from Russia to 30 different cities till 1922. He had more major tasks in his life given by the country one after the other all being successful. So he was a true statesman who contributed a lot to his country and made his name throughout the world participating in many major events and tasks given by the country on international grounds.

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Nobel Prize


For his achievements and the way he supervised and handled a lot many tasks with full ease, also making all the tasks given successful, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1922. He received a cash fund and rather than spending it on himself he submitted the money to the State itself for International relief work. He was a perfect gentleman and a countryman who served his country first than him and his requirements. In 1938, the Nansen International office of refugees also won a Nobel Prize for peace.


Second Marriage


In his later life, he married for the second time after the death of Eva in 1907. On 17th January 1919 Nansen married for the second time to Sigrun Munthe with whom he had a love affair since 1905 when Eva was still alive. This marriage wasn’t successful. It was also disapproved by his children and made Nansen’s life unhappy.

He did not pay attention to all these things and continued to travel and work for the nation and started pursuing his skills too. At the age of 67 i.e. in 1929 he had another love affair but did not marry this time. He had a love affair with Brenda Ueland who was almost half his age i.e. of 37 years and they both met in New York from the time the loved between them rose up. This was for a short time period as he was 67 but then also he kept on sending love letters to Brenda till he died.




Fridtjof Nansen died on 13th May 1930. He died of a heart attack. His funeral was non-religious in nature as he was given the honour and a state funeral after his death before he was to be cremated. He was loved and respected by all and a major person of the State was honored after his death. At his funeral, no speeches and announcements were made. The only thing which was going on in the background was a music which during his life earlier, his first wife Eva used to sing for him. So Nansen was a reputed and respected countryman and was given a lot of honor at his funeral.




Nansen was awarded many famous awards at that time and ended up having name and fame during his lifetime winning so many wards related to sports or from the country. He was a pioneer and innovator in many fields and gave a huge contribution to the country as well as to the world. Having his interest in sports like skiing, swimming and many more, he introduced the Nansen sledge with ski like runners. He also contributed a lot to the nation like he set up the Nansen international office for refugees which also won a Nobel peace prize in 1938. Not only on our planet but outside the planet too Nansen has his name present in the form of a crater known as the Nansen crater on the moon, on mars and also in the form of an asteroid. He did a lot for the nation and so he was famous and a reputed personality who has his mark till today’s era too.


His famous works


Nansen has written many famous works, books, and documents during his life related to zoology or his geographical expeditions. His works include:-

  • He also wrote a paper on “The Structure and Combination of historical elements of the central nervous system in 1887
  • The First crossing of Greenland in 1888-89
  • Book on Eskimo life “Eskimoliv” in 1891
  • The Norwegian North polar expedition: Scientific results in 1893-96
  • Norway and the union with Sweden in 1905
  • In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early times in 1911
  • Through Siberia the land of the future in 1914
  • Through the Caucasus of the Volga in 1931, etc.

His writings and works have also been translated into English and the first work was Armenia and the near East translated in New York in 1928 published by J.C. & A.L. Fawcett Inc. So, Nansen was a great person who contributed for the country and also pursued his interests throughout sports. He was also a great reputation and is a famous personality till today.



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