Fridtjof Nansen - arctic explorer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pioneer of neurobiology

R. Stien
Laboratory of neuro-urology, Ullevál Hospital, Oslo, Norway

F. Nansen was the first man to cross Greenland on ski, he tried to drift over the North Pole with his ship, and he survived more than one year in the ice trying to reach the pole on ski. He became professor of zoology, a well-known politician and Norwegian ambassador in London. He helped to save millions of people from starvation as High Commissioner for refugees in the Soviet Union after the revolution. He was a spokesman for a free Armenia. In 1922 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the 1880s he worked at the University of Bergen in cooperation with dr. Armauer Hansen, the discoverer of the lepra bacillus. Nansen was interested in the nervous system of non-vertebrates. He went to Italy to work with Camillo Golgi. With his staining method he showed that nerve cells were not connected as a structural network as the current "reticular theory" presumed. Nansen stated that nerve cells were structural units divided from other cells by membranes. He published his results in September 1886 shortly before Wilhelm His (Oct. 1886) and August Forel (Jan. 1887) independently did similar observations in Switzerland. In his thesis (1888) on the nervous system of a primitive fish, he even showed that afferents entering the spinal cord split into one cranially and one caudally running fiber. Nansen's basic works on nerve structure makes him one of the founders of Norwegian neuro-biology.


Session IV
Friday, 20 June 1997, 17.10 - 17.30

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands