Who Is Fridtjof Nansen and Why the Heck Does He Get a Google Doodle?

Get to know the Norwegian humanitarian and explorer.


If you’ve been on the internet today looking up the Last Jedi trailer’s porgs or why people are freaking out over McDonald’s Szechuan sauce, chances are you’ve seen Google’s doodle for Tuesday. And chances are you have no idea who this guy is.

Google is celebrating the 156th birthday of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian humanitarian best known for helping the migration and resettlement of refugees following WWI. Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for creating the “Nansen passport,” a travel document used after World War I for stateless refugees and prisoners of war. The League of Nations, which formed following the war, named Nansen the High Commissioner for Refugees, which put him in charge of many of Europe’s prisoners of war and allowed him to provide almost half a million passports.

That's quite an icy stare — Fridtjof Nansen in 1897.

Nansen didn’t start out wanting to do humanitarian work. The Oslo native started out as a cross-country skier and loved the outdoors so much that he studied zoology at school. He led an expedition across Greenland’s snowcaps and attempted to be the first person to reach the North Pole. Although he was unsuccessful, Nansen’s work has gained him plenty of popularity.

Nansen used his position as a national figure and international diplomat to advocate for Norway’s independence from Sweden in 1905. In 1921 he orchestrated humanitarian relief work in the Soviet Union while the nation experienced a severe famine.

Google created a doodle back in 2011 to celebrate Nansen’s 150th birthday. However, that one was only viewable to users in Nansen’s home country of Norway. The search engine started creating doodles in 1998 and has created more than 2,000 of them since then. An archive of Google’s doodles over time can be found here.

Related Tags