Adolf Erik Nordenskiold led a number of expeditions to the Arctic and was the first person to sail through the North-east Passage from northern Norway to the Bering Strait. Nordenskiold is the most internationally famous Finnish-born scientist.The collection of his maps and geographical works held by the University of Helsinki Library is regarded by UNESCO as one of the world’s most important collections of documents
When Nordenskiold was thirteen years old, he and his brother were sent to the famous grammar school at Porvoo. The school’s headmaster and Greek teacher was the national poet J. L. Runeberg, at whose home Nordenskiold sometimes spent evenings during his school days.
When he entered university at the age of seventeen, Nordenskiold was already oriented towards a scientific career, and he began studying mathematics, chemistry, mineralogy and geology. His first scientific work dealt with molluscs. He wrote a number of treatises, including a large general work entitled Beskrivning over de i Finlandfunna mineralier (‘Description of minerals occurring in Finland ) which was published in 1855. He trained himself to write in a concise fashion, but with a wealth of content and a precise, scientific attention to details. All seemed promising; Nordenskiold gained his doctorate, and he would probably have been given a professorship at the University if he had not come into conflict with the Russian authorities in Finland.
The 700th anniversary of Erik the Holy’s Finnish crusade was celebrated in conjunction with the conferring of doctoral degrees in 1857, and representatives of the Universities of Lund and Uppsala were present at the doctoral ceremony. As primus magister and ultimas doctor, Nordenskiold held a speech at the ceremony; in it he appealed to the shared history of Sweden and Finland, expressing the hope for strengthened relationships between these two countries again and casting doubts on Finland’s future opportunities under Russian rule. Many in the audience were of a different opinion, and the governor-general, Count Fredrik Wilhelm Rembert Berg, demanded that Nordenskiold apologise for his speech. Norden¬skiold, however, chose the second alternative and went to Sweden. His intention was evidently not to try to lead popular opposition but to continue his career as a scientist, and he was helped in this by his father’s contacts with leading international scholars and scientific circles. Having lost for some time his chance to gain a post, Nordenskiold was in fact later offered a professorship in Helsinki, but by that stage he was unwilling to give up his successful career in Sweden.
In the summer and winter of 1857 Nordenskiold stayed in Sweden and published several scientific papers after conducting chemical analyses at the Karolinska Institute and studying mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History. The head of the Mineralogical Department at the museum, Professor Carl Gus- taf Mosander, and the pioneer in Sweden of polar exploration, Professor Sven Loven, became his patrons and teachers. Thanks to Loven’s recommendation, Nordenskidld won a place on OttoTorell’s 1858 expedition to the fjords on the west coast of Spitzbergen, where zoological, botanical and geological research was carried out. The Tertiary plant fossils collected by Nordenskiold at Belsund were the beginning of the gradually accumulated extensive collections resulting from Swedish expeditions. On Torell’s second expedition to Spitzbergen, Nordenskiold was responsible for geological research and geographical position fixing. Torell and Nordenskiold mapped North-east Land and the northern part of Hinlopen Strait.
In January 1861 he was appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and after Torek's first expedition he was already offered the position of director of the Department of Mineralogy at the Museum of Natural History and thus continued to participate in Swedish polar expeditions. Nordenskiold was 26 when he attained the office of director and professor which he held for a total of 43 years until his death
Faksimileatlas till kartografiens cildsta historia innehallande avbildningar av de viktigaste kartor tryckta fore ar 1600
The 1868 expedition reached a latitude of 81E42...The 1868 expedition reached a latitude of 81E42' north. It turned out that the polar ice extended further south than had been believed, and the idea of open water at the North Pole was finally laid to rest. Nordenskiold became convinced that it was not possible to reach the Pole by ship. The collections of the Museum of Natural History were enriched by new specimens, which were studied during the return voyage. After the expedition, the British Royal Geographical Society awarded Nordenskiold its main gold medal, the Founders Medal.