Nansen, Fridtjof

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Epithet: Subject of Mss Eur F157

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001440.0x000064

Fridtjof Nansen was born on 10 October 1861 at Store Froen, near Oslo. He studied zoology at the University of Christiania [Oslo] and made his first Arctic voyage in the sealer Viking to the East Coast of Greenland in 1882. Later in the year, he was appointed zoological curator at Bergen Museum, where he spent the next six years in intensive scientific study, gaining a doctorate in 1888. For some time, Nansen had considered a plan to cross Greenland from east to west by ski and man-hauled sledge, and in 1888, he led a six-man party on the Norwegian Trans-Greenland Expedition, 1888-1889. This was the first expedition to cross Greenland and the third to penetrate any great distance onto the ice cap. Nansen demonstrated that the ice cap extends in an unbroken sheet across Greenland in the region traversed and as a result, was able to conjecture that it did so at least as far as 75° North, and probably further. The sledges designed by Nansen for this journey remained the standard sledge design used by polar explorers for many decades.

On his return from Greenland, Nansen was appointed curator of the zoological collection at the University of Christiania, and began preparations for another scientific and exploratory foray to the Arctic. Nansen's plan was to force an ice-strengthened ship into the pack ice as far east as possible, off the coast of Siberia, and allow it to be frozen in, in the hope that he would be carried across the North Pole, or a point close to it. Setting out in Fram in the summer of 1893 on the Norwegian Exploring Expedition, 1893-1896, he sailed along the Siberian coast. Fram was frozen into the pack ice north of the New Siberian Islands, subsequently drifting in a north-westerly direction. Realising soon into the drift that the ship would not pass over the Pole, Nansen and one companion, Hjalmar Johansen, set out in March 1895 in an attempt to reach the Pole. They struggled north under great hardship, reaching 86° 13 minutes 6 seconds North, a new record farthest north. The expedition afforded ample proof of the soundness of Nansen's theories, confirming the drift of the ice and proving that the Eurasian side of the Arctic basin was a true, deep ocean.

On his return from the Arctic, Nansen held a research professorship in zoology at the University of Christiania, publishing six volumes of scientific observations on the expedition. He interrupted his research work in 1905 to urge the independence of Norway from Sweden, and after the dissolution of the Union, served as Norway's minister to Great Britain until 1908. Continuing his work in oceanic research, he was appointed professor of oceanography in 1908. In the next few years, he led several oceanographic expeditions into the Arctic, but during the First World War, became increasingly involved in international politics. For his work with the League of Nations and the Red Cross on behalf of prisoners of war, refugees and victims of famine, in 1922 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nansen never lost interest in polar affairs, becoming the founder and first president of the International Society for the Exploration of the Arctic by means of Aircraft (Aeroarctic). Although he never visited Antarctica, he strongly influenced southern polar exploration by his methodical approach to techniques of expedition camping, travelling and ship handling. He died in Norway on 13 May 1930.

Published work Farthest North, being the record of a voyage of exploration of the ship Fram, 1893-1896, and of a fifteen months' sleigh journey by Dr. Nansen and Lt. Johansen, with an appendix by Otto Sverdrup, Captain of the Fram by Fridtjof Nansen, Archibald Constable and Co. Westminster (1900) SPRI Library Shelf (3)91(08)[1893-1896 Nansen] Eskimo Life by Fridtjof Nansen, Longmans, Green and Co. London (1894) SPRI Library Shelf (38)39[Eskimo] The first crossing of Greenland by Fridtjof Nansen, Longmans, Green and Co. London (1893) SPRI Library Shelf (38)91(08)[1888-1889]

From the guide to the Fridtjof Nansen collection, 1893-1925, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)

Place Name Admin Code Country
China, Asia
Sikkim, Asia
Thailand, Asia
Transcaspia, Central Asia
Gilgit, Kashmir
Kashgar, China
Turkestan, Asia
Japan, Asia
Central Asia, Asia
Charsadda, North-West Frontier Province
Cambodia, Asia
Russia, Europe, Asia
Tibet, Asia
North-West Frontier Province, India
Satna, Rewa State, Central India
Bhutan, Asia
Dibang River, Assam
Himalaya Mountains, Tibet
Mount Everest, Tibet
Aligarh, United Provinces
Mishmi Hills, Assam and Burma
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Assam, India
North-East Frontier, India
Rawalpindi, Punjab
Mashhad, Iran
Nepal, Asia
Nobel Prizes


Active 1827

Active 1976



Ark ID: w6zw4z7q

SNAC ID: 57846402