Bradford Washburn

Bradford Washburn

Biography: BRADFORD WASHBURN was born on June 7, 1910, in Cambridge, Mass. He first climbed Mt. Washington at the age of 11. Two years later, his mother gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie, the point-and-shoot of the day. He remained passionate about climbing and photography for the rest of his life.

He was an American 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).

Washburn is especially noted for exploits in four areas.

  • 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).
  • He pioneered the use of aerial photography in 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.
  • He was responsible for creating maps of various mountain ranges, including Mount McKinley, Mount Everest, and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire.
  • His stewardship of the Boston Museum of Science.

Several of these achievements—e.g. the Everest map and subsequent further work on the elevation and geology of Everest—were carried out when Washburn was in his 70s and 80s.

Bradford Washburn's Books

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