The Foundation Exchange Programs

Scandinavian Review, Autumn 2011 | Go to article overview

The Foundation Exchange Programs


MANY CONSIDER THE American Scandinavian Foundations programs, facilitating the exchange of scholars, researchers, interns, and trainees between the United States and the five Nordic nations to be the very core of the Foundations mission - and rightly so. During the course of its first 100 years, the ASF has enabled nearly 30,000 Americans and Scandinavians - while thousands more were helped indirectly - to spend time immersed in a new society and culture while studying or working.

Fellowships & Grants

THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY, THE ASF HAS SERVED ALL levels of scholarly endeavor, supporting Americans for study and research in the Nordic countries, and Scandinavians for study and research in the U.S. It all began in 1912 when the Foundation awarded its first fellowships in a program that over the next century would support the work of some 7,500 scholars, researchers and professionals in a diversity of areas ranging from medicine and the sciences, to economics and politics, to the arts and literature.

The first three recipients were all philologists. Martin Bronn Ruud went to Denmark where his research into Scandinavian languages and literature marked the first conspicuous step of an academic career that included a doctorate from the University of Chicago and numerous writings on such subjects as Danish views on Shakespeare. Herman Olson followed his studies in Swedish literature at Uppsala with books such as The History of Religious Liberty in Europe and America. Henning Larsen spent his fellowship in Oslo studying Old Norse and Germanic philology. He then returned to the U.S. and held a number of prestigious university posts, while compiling books on old Icelandic medical therapies and Teutonic mythology.

Also in that inaugural year, two recipients from Norway and one each from Sweden and Denmark pursued radically different paths during their time in the U.S. One attended Harvard to study the humanities, and ended up as headmaster of a school in Askim, Norway, a second enrolled at Columbia for a course labeled "domestic science" and returned to Oslo to spend her life teaching blind and deaf children; a third went to M.I.T. for advanced courses in naval architecture and took that knowledge back to Göteborg to teach the craft and technique of shipbuilding; and the fourth attended library school in Albany, as an early step toward becoming the director of Copenhagen's Museum of Decorative Art.

During the initial years, support for the Fellowship Program came from Foundation pioneer Niels Poulson's $100,000 original bequest. The number of Fellows gradually increased, with 10 or more in each of the years leading up to the American involvement in World War I. The exchanges ceased for a year on account of the war and then returned with renewed vigor in 1919, after special pledges of funding over a five-year period were received from numerous donors on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, 35 Fellows were appointed for the 1919-20 academic year. Noteworthy about this group was that it included 10 Americans who had applied to study some branch of science in Sweden, a country by then associated globally with the Nobel Prizes, particularly in chemistry and physics. This was the first year that the ASF sent its first Fellow to Iceland, Kemp Malone, who became an eminent philologist

THE DECADE OF THE 1920s produced several grant recipients who would become internationally known in later years. In 1920, for instance, one of the six Fellows to Denmark was Robert Hillyer, the New Jersey-born poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for his verse in 1934. The 1923 recipients for Denmark included chemist Harold Urey, whose work on isotopes earned him a Nobel Prize the same year Hillyer received his Pulitzer. Denmark was a magnet in 1924 for historian Henry Steele Commager, most of whose 40 books and 700 essays dealt with aspects of the evolution of liberalism in the United States. Also in 1924, a grant was awarded to oceanographer Edward Smith for a stay in Norway; he gained fanne during World War ? …

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The Foundation Exchange Programs
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