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In this issue's John Harvard's Journal:
Restored - Thinning Ranks - Big Thinking About Science - Harvard Portrait: Everett Mendelsohn - Completing the Campaign - Berkowitz Appeals Tenure Denial - An Accident Waiting to Happen? - Sampler of Shrubs and Vines Planned by Arboretum - Russia 2000 - Radcliffe: Stasis and Movement - Brevia - A Nod to Ham Rice - Riches Richly Rewarded - The Undergraduate: Home Ground - Sports: Tornado on Ice - Sports: Wrapping Up Winter's Games

Bradford Washburn and his wife, Barbara, the first woman to climb Mount McKinley, at the unveiling of a plaque honoring the explorer and geographer Alexander Hamilton Rice. FLINT BORN

A Nod to Ham Rice

The story has been told of how Alexander Hamilton Rice, A.B. 1898, M.D. '04, in 1929 offered to build Harvard an Institute of Geographical Exploration at 2 Divinity Avenue if in return he was named its director and appointed a professor; how President A. Lawrence Lowell and the Corporation accepted the deal, perhaps in deference to Mrs. Rice's money, she being the former Eleanor Elkins Widener; how academic politics smote Harvard's geographers and geologists; how President James B. Conant, declaring that geography is not a university subject, scuttled the geography department in 1948; how Rice, piqued by this dissing of his discipline, withdrew his support and went back to Eleanor's 65-room Newport cottage in his chauffeured, blue Rolls Royce; and how Harvard closed his institute in 1952 and installed in its place the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the department of East Asian languages and civilizations, whose personnel may have been puzzled about why the bas-relief globe above the building's entrance shows North and South America, rather than Asia ("Harvard, Bring Back Geography!" by Edward Tenner, May-June 1988).

What has not been told is that on December 10, 1998, a plaque honoring Rice was unveiled in the vestibule of 2 Divinity Avenue. H. Bradford Washburn '33, L.H.D. '75, once a student of Rice's, later assistant director of his institute, and then director of Boston's Museum of Science--a celebrated aerial photographer and cartographer of the Grand Canyon, Mount McKinley, Everest, and now the Himalayas--had suggested to the University that some recognition of Rice's contributions to geology was in order.

"Rivers became [Rice's] specialty," wrote Tenner. "He knew headwaters the way other society folk know headwaiters." "On seven expeditions to South America he...explored some 500,000 square miles of the Amazon basin," Thayer Soule '39 writes in his memoir, On the Road with Travelogues. "On his last trip, in 1924-25, he...ascended the Orinoco River to its headwaters, traversed the natural Casquiare Canal, and descended the Rio Branco to the Amazon at Manaos. It was the first expedition to use aerial photography and shortwave radio." A map resulted, Washburn said in remarks at the unveiling, "the first map, I believe, of a large area that was ever made from the air."

In charge of the camera work was Captain Albert W. Stevens, U.S. Army, who went on to do extraordinary things with high-altitude balloons and become one of several distinguished lecturers in Rice's institute. While Rice himself expounded to students the history of geographical exploration, he engaged others to pioneer the field of photogrammetry.

The plaque honoring Rice thus reads in part: "Within these walls, he and his colleagues laid the foundations for the mapping of the world from the air."

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