Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/547

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SKETCH OF BARON ADOLF ERIC NORDENSKIÖLD.

SKETCH OF BARON ADOLF ERIC NORDENSKIÖLD.

BARON NORDENSKIÖLD has been styled by Germans the Vasco de Gama of our century. His work is solid and original enough to stand by itself, and need not be compared or contrasted with that of any other. The careful, systematic pursuit of a well-formed purpose, with the full benefit of the experience of past navigators, with a well-defined idea of what was expected to be accomplished, and of how it was to be done, with scientific foresight displayed at every step, can not with justice to either be weighed in the same scale with the bold achievements of the hardy adventurers of former centuries who, starting without the aid of any of the knowledge which has now been accumulated, and without definite notions of where they should go or what they would find, discovered what the fortunes of the wind and the waves brought in their way. The character of Nordenskiöld's work and the manner in which it was performed mark, however, the difference in the methods of research which were available in the past and those which we enjoy and employ at present. In this sense only can a just comparison be made between Nordenskiöld and the explorers of other centuries.

Baron Nordenskiöld is not only a most successful Arctic explorer and navigator, as he is best known: he has done excellent work in other branches of science, and has contributed to knowledge from many directions; and the pages of his narratives of voyages bear evidence to the fact of his versatility, that no event or thing that may add to knowledge is unobserved or unemployed by him; that he knows how to lay all under contribution for the advancement of knowledge. What is most attractive about him, says Dr. Karl Müller, of Halle, "is not the splendid achievement of his polar journeys, but the irrepressible perseverance with which he exerted himself through years at a time to pass from small beginnings to ever bolder and more practical problems. While the navigation of the northeast passage may always be regarded as the brightest among his discoveries, Nordenskiöld was, through all his previous history, a whole man."

Baron Nordenskiöld enjoyed the advantage of an ancestry distinguished through several generations for scientific attainments. "Nature" says, in its biography of the explorer: "The race from which Nordenskiöld sprang had been known for centuries for the possession of remarkable qualities, among which an ardent love of nature and of scientific research was predominant. Its founder is said to have been a Lieutenant Nordberg, who was settled in Upland about the beginning of the seventeenth century. His son, Johan Eric, born in 1660, changed the name to Nordenberg. He died in 1740, leaving two sons, Anders Johan and Carl Frederik, both of whom, though the