Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen 1896 – 1920
The return of Nansen and the Fram after the three-year expedition was a national event, with flag-waving crowds and celebrations throughout the country. After his crossing of Greenland in 1888 and then the Fram expedition, Nansen became an internationally-acknowledged polar scientist and his fame helped Norway to emerge successfully in 1905 from the union with Sweden. Nansen became a good friend of the new Norwegian royal couple Haakon and Maud and he was the first Norwegian ambassador to Great Britain 1906-08, when he also became a friend of King Edward VII. He was appointed professor in zoology in 1897 at the University in Oslo, but was now more interested in oceanography. In 1908 he became the first professor in oceanography in Scandinavia, but he did not find the time to teach. Although he was a scientist at heart, various diplomatic and humanitarian missions now took over most of his time. Nansen had married singer and pioneer of women’s skiing Eva Sars (1858-1907) in 1889 and their daughter Liv was only a few months old when the Fram expedition started. They had four more children, before Eva died of pneumonia in 1907.

Fridtjof Nansen 1920-1930
During the I stWorld War Nansen was sent to the USA to help secure supplies for neutral Norway. The atrocities of the war made him a strong supporter of the League of Nations (later the United Nations). In 1920 he was appointed High Commissioner for the repatriation of Russian and German prisoners of war and he afterwards threw himself into work to alleviate victims of famine in Russia. In 1922 he was appointed the League of Nation’s first High Commissioner for Refugees, at the same time as the Nansen Passport was created, to help stateless refugees flee to new countries. This refugee travel document in one man’s name helped such people as Igor Stravinsky, Sergey Rachmaninov, Marc Chagall and Anna Pavlova, as well as thousands of others, to move to new countries and new lives. That Autumn Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. His last major effort was to help Armenian refugees from Turkey, for which he is dearly remembered in Armenia today. He died in 1930.

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