Fridtjof Nansen


Fridtjof Nansen : biography

10 October 1861 – 13 May 1930

From 1925 onwards he spent much time trying to help Armenian refugees, victims of Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War and further ill-treatment thereafter., United Human Rights Council. Retrieved 18 August 2010. His goal was the establishment of a national home for these refugees, within the borders of Soviet Armenia. His main assistant in this endeavour was Vidkun Quisling, the future Nazi collaborator and head of a Norwegian puppet government during the Second World War.Huntford, pp. 659–660 After visiting the region, Nansen presented the Assembly with a modest plan for the irrigation of 36,000 hectares (360 km2 or 139 square miles) on which 15,000 refugees could be settled.Reynolds, p. 262 The plan ultimately failed, because even with Nansen’s unremitting advocacy the money to finance the scheme was not forthcoming. Despite this failure, his reputation among the Armenian people remains high.

Within the League’s Assembly, Nansen spoke out on many issues besides those related to refugees. He believed that the Assembly gave the smaller countries such as Norway a "unique opportunity for speaking in the councils of the world."Scott, p. 230 He believed that the extent of the League’s success in reducing armaments would be the greatest test of its credibility.Reynolds, p. 247 He was a signatory to the Slavery Convention of 25 September 1926, which sought to outlaw the use of forced labour., The Anti-Slavery Society, 2003. Retrieved 18 August 2010. He supported a settlement of the post-war reparations issue, and championed Germany’s membership of the League, which was granted in September 1926 after intensive preparatory work by Nansen.

Family background and childhood

The Nansen family originated in Denmark. Hans Nansen (1598–1667), a trader, was an early explorer of the White Sea region of the Arctic Ocean. In later life he settled in Copenhagen, becoming the city’s borgmester in 1654. Later generations of the family lived in Copenhagen until the mid-18th century, when Ancher Antoni Nansen moved to Norway (then ruled by Denmark). His son, Hans Leierdahl Nansen (1764–1821), was a magistrate first in the Trondheim district, later in Jæren. After Norway’s separation from Denmark in 1814, he entered national political life as the representative for Stavanger in the first Storting, and became a strong advocate of union with Sweden. After suffering a paralytic stroke in 1821 Hans Leierdahl Nansen died, leaving a four-year-old son, Baldur Fridtjof Nansen, the explorer’s father.Brøgger and Rolfsen, pp. 1–7, 10–15

Baldur was a lawyer without ambitions for public life, who became Reporter to the Supreme Court of Norway. He married twice, the second time to Adelaide Johanne Thekla Isidore Bølling Wedel-Jarlsberg from Bærum, a niece of Herman Wedel-Jarlsberg who had helped frame the Norwegian constitution of 1814 and was later the Swedish king’s Norwegian Viceroy.Brøgger and Rolfsen, pp. 8–9 Baldur and Adelaide settled at Store Frøen, an estate at Aker, a few kilometres north of Norway’s capital city, Christiania (since renamed Oslo). The couple had three children; the first died in infancy, the second, born 10 October 1861, was Fridtjof Nansen.Reynolds, pp. 11–14Huntford, pp. 7–12

Store Frøen’s rural surroundings shaped the nature of Nansen’s childhood. In the short summers the main activities were swimming and fishing, while in the autumn the chief pastime was hunting for game in the forests. The long winter months were devoted mainly to skiing, which Nansen began to practice at the age of two, on improvised skis. At the age of 10 he defied his parents and attempted the ski jump at the nearby Huseby installation. This exploit had near-disastrous consequences, as on landing the skis dug deep into the snow, pitching the boy forward: "I, head first, described a fine arc in the air … [W]hen I came down again I bored into the snow up to my waist. The boys thought I had broken my neck, but as soon as they saw there was life in me … a shout of mocking laughter went up." Nansen’s enthusiasm for skiing was undiminished, though as he records, his efforts were overshadowed by those of the skiers from the mountainous region of Telemark, where a new style of skiing was being developed. "I saw this was the only way", wrote Nansen later.Scott, pp. 9–10