Daniel Willard Fiske was born in Ellisburgh, New York in 1831. He loved languages, especially Nordic ones, and studied at the universities in Copenhagen, Denmark and Uppsala, Sweden. In Copenhagen he met quite a few Icelanders, among them Jón Sigurðsson the founding father of Iceland´s independence movement.
Fiske grew fond of the people and the language and planned to visit the country after his studies. But he missed his ship and therefore sailed back to the United States. His interest in the country did not vain and he studied and wrote numerous articles about the Icelandic language, culture and people. Cornell University was established in 1868 and Icelandic studies thrived there from the start under Fiske´s authority. In 1874 he sent a large shipment of books from various American scholars to Iceland on the 1000 year anniversary of the country´s settlement. He wanted to bring them himself but had to wait another five years.
Fiske read many travel journals from tourists who had visited Iceland and prepared very well. The journal´s gave a clear warning to the reader that travel in Iceland was not easy and had to have some real purpose. There were no trains or paved roads so travelers had to ride on horseback…..or walk. When Fiske received a loan from the dean at Cornell University he didn´t hesitate to cross the ocean. This had been his dream for a quarter of a century.
– Article by Kristinn H. Guðnason –