Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Renowned Mountaineer Bradford Washburn Dies at 96

Mount Everest and mountaineering are among my reading interests. I was thus saddened to learn today that legendary explorer, cartographer, and photographer Bradford Washburn, who founded the Boston Museum of Science, has passed away at age 96.

Washburn's life was filled with many remarkable accomplishments. As described by the Washington Post: "In a long and adventurous life, Bradford Washburn ascended mountain peaks, drew complex and complete maps, shot stunning aerial photographs and rebuilt a science museum. He tried to persuade aviator Amelia Earhart to take better radios on her final, fatal flight in 1937. He directed a 1999 effort that revised the official elevation of Mount Everest." Washburn was in his late 80s at the time of the Everest elevation project.

Washburn authored many books, including an autobiography, AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE, in 2005. Books such as BRADFORD WASHBURN: MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY contain his extraordinary photographs. If you're not familiar with Brad Washburn, I urge you to look for one of his photography books. He was surely the "Ansel Adams" of high elevations.

Washburn's wife, Barbara, wrote a charming memoir, THE ACCIDENTAL ADVENTURER. Her story reminded me rather of Anne Morrow Lindbergh: a quiet woman who falls in love with an explorer and finds the strength within herself to join in his adventures. Barbara Washburn was the first woman to summit Mount McKinley. The Washburns were married over 65 years.

The Boston Museum of Science has a tribute to Washburn posted on its site, including a video link to a documentary featuring Washburn.

More in The Boston Globe and at Everest News.

A long life, well lived.

Wednesday Update: A wonderful obituary from the Boston Globe, courtesy of a good friend. It includes a photo of Washburn climbing the Boston Museum of Science in the '60s.


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