Ludvig Holberg (1684–1745), the father of Danish and Norwegian literature, was a leading dramatist whose comedies are still performed. Henrik Wergeland (1808–45), Norway's greatest poet, was also a patriot and social reformer; his sister Camilla Collett (1813–95), author of the first Norwegian realistic novel, was a pioneer in the movement for women's rights. Henrik Ibsen (1827–1906), founder of modern dramas, placed Norway in the forefront of world literature. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832–1910), poet, playwright, and novelist, received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1903. Other noted novelists are Jonas Lie (1833–1908); Alexander Kielland (1849–1906); Knut Hamsun (1859–1952), Nobel Prize winner in 1920; Sigrid Undset (1882–1949), awarded the Nobel Prize in 1928; and Johan Bojer (1872–1959).
Ole Bull (1810–80) was a world-famous violinist. Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) was the first Norwegian composer to win broad popularity. His leading contemporaries and successors were Johan Svendsen (1840–1911), Christian Sinding (1856–1941), Johan Halvorsen (1864–1935), and Fartein Valen (1887–1953). Kirsten Flagstad (1895–1962), world-renowned soprano, served for a time as director of the Norwegian State Opera. In painting, Harriet Backer (1845–1932), Christian Krohg (1852–1925), and Erik Werenskiold (1855–1938) were outstanding in the traditional manner; leading the way to newer styles was Edvard Munch (1863–1944), an outstanding expressionist, as well as Axel Revold (1887–1962) and Per Krohg (1889–1965). Norway's foremost sculptor is Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943); the Frogner Park in Oslo is the site of a vast collection of his work in bronze and granite.
Outstanding scientists are Christopher Hansteen (1784–1873), famous for his work in terrestrial magnetism; Niels Henrik Abel (1802–29), noted for his work on the theory of equations; Armauer (Gerhard Henrik) Hansen (1841–1912), discoverer of the leprosy bacillus; Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862–1951), who advanced the science of meteorology; Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930), an oceanographer and Arctic explorer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for organizing famine relief in Russia; Otto Sverdrup (1854–1930), Roald Amundsen (1872–1928), and Bernt Balchen (1899–1973), polar explorers; Johan Hjort (1869–1948), a specialist in deep-sea fishery research; Regnar Frisch (1895–1978), who shared the first Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1969 for developing econometrics; Odd Hassel (1897–1981), co-winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his studies of molecular structure; and Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002), explorer and anthropologist.
The first secretary-general of the UN was a Norwegian, Trygve (Halvdan) Lie (1896–1968), who served from 1946 to 1953. The historian Christian Louis Lange (1869–1938) was co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921.
Sonja Henie (1913–69) was the leading woman figure skater of her time, and Liv Ullmann (b.1939) is an internationally known actress. Grete Waitz (b.1953) is a champion long-distance runner.