- Bradford Washburn
Henry Bradford Washburn, Jr. (
June 7, 1910- January 10, 2007) was an explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer. He established the Boston Museum of Science, served as its director from 1939-1980, and from 1985 until his death served as its Honorary Director (a lifetime appointment).
Cambridge, Massachusetts, he received an undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He returned to Harvard to earn a master’s degree in geologyand geographyin 1960.
Washburn was noted for his exploits in four areas. First, he was one of the leading American mountaineers in the 1920s through the 1950s, putting up first ascents and new routes on many major
Alaskan peaks (often with his wife, Barbara Washburn, one of the pioneers among female mountaineers). Second, he pioneered the use of aerial photographyin the analysis of mountains and in planning mountaineering expeditions. His thousands of striking black-and-white photos, mostly of Alaskan peaks and glaciers, are known for their wealth of informative detail and their artistry. They are the reference standard for route photos of Alaskan climbs.
Third, he was responsible for some of the finest maps ever made of mountain regions; his map of
Mount McKinleyand his map of Mount Everestare perhaps the most notable, although his map of the Presidential Rangein New Hampshirewas closer to home. Fourth, and not least, his stewardship of the Boston Museum of Science made it into a first-class museum.
It is especially remarkable to note that some of these achievements – in particular the Everest map and subsequent further work on the elevation and geology of Everest – were carried out in his 70s and 80s.
Washburn was also an avid pilot and made his first solo flight in a Fleet biplane at
Boeing Fieldin Seattle in 1934. He earned his private flying license at Roosevelt Field on Long Islandlater that year.
Washburn embarked on a notable expedition in 1937 to
Mount Lucania, 17,147 feet (5,226 m), in the Yukon. To do this he and climbing partner Robert Bates had to reach Walsh Glacier, 8,750 ft (2,670 m) above sea level. He called upon Bob Reeve, a famous Alaskan bush pilot, who later replied by cable to Washburn, "Anywhere you'll ride, I'll fly". The ski-equipped Fairchild F-51 made several trips to the landing site on the glacier without event in May, but on landing with Washburn and Bates in June, the plane sank into unseasonal slush. Washburn, Bates and Reeve pressed hard for five days to get the airplane out and Reeve was eventually able to get the airplane airborne with all excess weight removed and the assistance of a smooth icefall with a steep drop. Washburn and Bates continued on foot to make the first ascent of Lucania, and after an epic descent and journey to civilization,cite book | first = Stephen | last = Venables | authorlink = Stephen Venables | title = Voices from the Mountains | location= Pleasantville, NY | publisher = Reader's Digest | year = 2006 | isbn = 0-7621-0810-X | oclc = 68417016 | pages = 40-43 ] they hiked over 150 miles through the wilderness to safety in the small town of Burwash Landingin the Yukon. [ [http://www.adn.com/outdoors/story/9362435p-9276110c.html Anchorage Daily News. "Climber's exploits earned little recognition" by Craig Medred. October 7, 2007.] ]
Washburn gathered many awards over the course of his career, including nine honorary doctorates, the Centennial Award of the
National Geographic Society(shared with his wife Barbara, the first woman to summit Mount McKinley), and the King Albert Medal of Merit.
He died of heart failure on
January 10, 2007, at the age of 96, in a retirement home in Lexington, Massachusetts. In addition to his wife, he left a son, Edward H of Lexington, MA., and two daughters, Dorothy Dundas of Newton, MA and Elizabeth Cabot of Belmont, MA. [ [http://www.boston.com/news/globe/city_region/breaking_news/2007/01/bradford_washbu_1.html Bradford Washburn, father of modern Museum of Science, dies at 96 - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe ] ]
Washburn’s legacy now lives on with a new state-of-the-art museum named in his honor. The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum (BWAMM) is devoted to
mountaineering, the mountains, science and art, and the dissemination of knowledge – all things that Washburn exemplified. BWAMM is a joint project of the American Alpine Club, Colorado Mountain Club, and National Geographic Society, and opened in Golden, Colorado, Feb. 16, 2008. [The Denver Post. "Mountaineering museum finds a home in Golden." Feb. 18, 2008. http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_8299072]
elected Alaskan first ascents
* 1933: Pointed Peak, Fairweather Range, Saint Elias Mountains
Mount Crillon, Fairweather Range, Saint Elias Mountains
Mount Lucania, Saint Elias Mountains
Mount Marcus Baker, Chugach Mountains
* 1938: Mount Sanford,
* 1940: Mount Bertha, Fairweather Range,
Saint Elias Mountains
Mount Hayes, Alaska Range
* 1944: Mount Deception, Alaska Range
* 1945: Mount Silverthrone,
* 1947: McGonagall Mountain, Alaska Range
* 1951: West Buttress Route on
Mount McKinley, Alaska Range
* 1951: Kahiltna Dome, Alaska Range
* 1955: Mount Dickey, Alaska Range
* [http://www.washburnportfolio.com Photographing In High Places] A portfolio of ten photographs from the Alaska Range and the Yukon made between 1938 and 1978.
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/obituaries/16washburn.html?ex=1326603600&en=c454c2d633428a59&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Obituary] in the New York Times
* [http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=174424160&firstVideo=48 Memorial film: "Remembering Brad Washburn"]
* [http://bwamm.org Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum]
* [http://panopt.com/images.php?a=1 Collection of Washburn's photographs at Panopticon Gallery]
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