Fridtjof Nansen

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Fridtjof Nansen : biography

10 October 1861 – 13 May 1930

In 1954 the League’s successor body, the United Nations, established the Nansen Medal, later named the Nansen Refugee Award, given annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to an individual, group or organisation "in recognition of extraordinary and dedicated service to refugees".

In his lifetime and thereafter, Nansen received honours and recognition from many countries.Huntford, pp. 156, 179, 445–461 Nansen Ski Club, the oldest continually operated ski club in the United States, located in Berlin, New Hampshire, is named in his honour. Numerous geographical features are named after him: the Nansen Basin and the Nansen-Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean; Mount Nansen in the Yukon region of Canada; Mount Nansen, Mount Fridtjof NansenAmundsen, Vol II p. 30 and Nansen Island, all in Antarctica. Polhøgda is now home to the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, an independent foundation which engages in research on environmental, energy and resource management politics.

In 1968 a film of Nansen's life, Bare et liv – Historien om Fridtjof Nansen was released, directed by Sergei Mikaelyen, with Knut Wigert as Nansen. 

In 2004 the Royal Norwegian Navy launched the first of a series of five Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates. The lead ship of the group is HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen; two others are named after Roald Amundsen and Otto Sverdrup. In the ocean, Nansen is commemorated by Nansenia, small mesopelagic fishes of family Microstomatidae. In space, he is commemorated by asteroid 853 Nansenia.Lutz D. Schmadel. Dictionary of minor planet names, Volume 1, Springer, 2003. In 1964, the IAU adopted the name Nansen for an impact crater at the Lunar north pole, after the Norwegian explorer.

Later life

On 17 January 1919 Nansen married Sigrun Munthe, a long-time friend with whom he had had a love affair in 1905, while Eva was still alive. The marriage was resented by the Nansen children, and proved unhappy; an acquaintance writing of them in the 1920s said Nansen appeared unbearably miserable and Sigrun steeped in hate.Huntford, pp. 598, 664

Nansen’s League of Nations commitments through the 1920s meant that he was mostly absent from Norway, and was able to devote little time to scientific work. Nevertheless, he continued to publish occasional papers.Scott, p. 298 He entertained the hope that he might travel to the North Pole by airship, but could not raise sufficient funding.Fleming, p. 421 In any event he was forestalled in this ambition by Amundsen, who flew over the pole in Umberto Nobile’s airship Norge in May 1926.Fleming, pp. 405–407 Two years later Nansen broadcast a memorial oration to Amundsen, who had disappeared in the Arctic while organising a rescue party for Nobile whose airship had crashed during a second polar voyage. Nansen said of Amundsen:

He found an unknown grave under the clear sky of the icy world, with the whirring of the wings of eternity through space."Huntford, pp. 663–664

In 1926 Nansen was elected Rector of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the first foreigner to hold this largely honorary position. He used the occasion of his inaugural address to review his life and philosophy, and to deliver a call to the youth of the next generation. He ended:

We all have a Land of Beyond to seek in our life—what more can we ask? Our part is to find the trail that leads to it. A long trail, a hard trail, maybe; but the call comes to us, and we have to go. Rooted deep in the nature of every one of us is the spirit of adventure, the call of the wild—vibrating under all our actions, making life deeper and higher and nobler.Reynolds, pp. 272–274

Nansen largely avoided involvement in domestic Norwegian politics, but in 1924 he was persuaded by the long-retired former prime minister Christian Michelsen to lend his name to a new anti-communist political grouping, Fædrelandslaget ("Fatherland League"). There were fears in Norway that should the Marxist-oriented Norwegian Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) gain power it would introduce a revolutionary programme. At a Fædrelandslaget rally in Oslo (as Christiania had now been renamed), Nansen declared: