Born on October 10, 1861 to a prosperous lawyer and a mother who encouraged her children to be athletic and develop physical skills, Nansen soon became an expert in various physical activities such as skating, tumbling, swimming and skiing.
From his school days, Fridtjof Nansen excelled in science and drawing, and upon entering university, he decided to do his majors in zoology.
Nansen mixed his scientific interests with his exploratory instincts to draw in a series of achievements that brought him international fame.
In 1888, he led a party of six across Greenland, the interiors of which were previously unexplored, and survived harsh conditions and dangerous icy terrain to emerge on the west coast of the country after a trip of two months, bringing back important information.
Two years later, he would published his book "The First Crossing of Greenland".
Nansen was a firm believer of moving forward. On his trip to Greenland, he would make his party burn their boats so that going back was no longer an option.
A few years later, Nansen set out on an exploratory foray into the Arctic on his ship "Fram", meaning "forward".
In 1905, Fridtjof Nansen fought for the independence of Norway from Sweden, and after the Union dissolved, served as the country's minister to Britain.
It was in 1914, when World War I started and explorations were stopped, that Nansen started taking an interest in international politics, starting another chapter in his life.
In 1919, Nansen became the president of the Norweian Union for the League of Nations and was an influential lobbyist for the adoption of the League Covenant and for recognition of the rights of small nations.
In 1920, the League of Nations tasked him with repatriating the prisoners of war. Nansen succeeded in his task brilliantly, as he did with most of his adventures, and with his cunning and ingenuity he repatriated 450,000 prisoners in the next year and a half, despite restricted funds.
In 1921, when the League of Nations instituted its High Commission for Refugees, it was no surprise that Fridtjof Nansen was asked to head it. That is when he created the "Nansen Passports" for the stateless refugees under his care.
The Nansen Passports were documents of identification which were eventually recognized by more than 50 governments.
The Red Cross also asked him to direct relief for millions of Russians dying in the 1921-1922 famine. Despite little support for Russia and help difficult to muster, Nansen pursued his task with vigor and energy. Nansen ended up gathering and distributing enough supplies to save a large number of people. Figures being quoted ranged from seven million to 22 million.
In 1922, after the war between Greece and Turkey, he facilitated the exchange of about 1,250,000 Greeks living on Turkish soil for about 500,000 Turks living in Greece.
Having lived a life of adventure, research and humanitarianism, Fridtjof Nansen died on May 13, 1930.