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Polar Bytes - No. 12, September 1999

Polar Bytes - No. 12, September 1999

A word from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back

Our summer lunch at Girton was much enjoyed by the 71 Friends who were able to attend and we hope to see more there next year.

Sadly we record the deaths of several leading supporters of the Institute. Iris, wife of Terence Armstrong, (Assistant Director 1956-1977 and Reader in Arctic Studies), Kate, wife of Colin Bertram, (Director of the Institute 1949-1956), Lady Batterbee, Professor John Coales, (Engineering Department and wartime naval radar expert), and finally Alfred Stevenson (Steve). Also we record the sad death on the 5th August 1999 of the Institute's afternoon receptionist, Paula Sands. We send our condolences to the families concerned.

On a happier note we send our congratulations to William Mills and Tze-yun Chang on the occasion of their wedding held on 7th August and wish them all the best for the future.

From the Secretary of the Friends, Anne Millar

Following several requests from Friends, you will find this Newsletter includes short biographies of the current Committee members together with their retirement dates.

Dates for your diary

Details of the AGM and Buffet Supper on Saturday 20th November 1999 will be available in the October newsletter together with ticket application forms.

Following the success of this year's Summer Lunch, the Lunch next year will again be held at Girton on Saturday 3 June 2000 and we hope to see as many of you as possible.

Evening Lectures

The Friends continue to support the Museum Shop which will be open at all lectures this term from 7.30pm and during coffee. Coffee and biscuits will also be served by Friends volunteers after each lecture.

Biographies of the Committee

Philippa Foster Back (Chairman)

Philippa's career has been in finance since leaving University College, London with degree in Geography. She is presently Group Treasurer of EMI Group. Her interest in matters polar, north and south, was instilled from an early age from her grandfather, Professor Frank Debenham, and co-incidentally via her ancestor Admiral Sir George Back. In addition to the Friends she is President of the Association of Corporate Treasurers and an independent member of both the Defence Audit Committee at the Ministry of Defence and the Milk Development Council. (Retires 2000)

Wg Cdr A N Billinghurst, OBE, RAFVR(T)

Tony has been a Friend of the Institute since the early 1950's, when he came to Cambridge to teach French at the Perse School. Since then, through Venture Scouting, the Combined Cadet Force, the British Schools Exploring Society, or Cambridge University, he has taken a leading role in 26 overseas expeditions involving young people. These include 6 to the Pyrenees, 7 to the Alps, 3 to Norway, 4 to Iceland, 4 to Spitsbergen and 2 to East Greenland. He has been a Friends Committee member since 1988 and worked as a volunteer since 1991 in the Archives. He has been a member of the Arctic Club since 1973. (Retires 1999)

Dr Pam Davis

I am a graduate of the University of Cambridge and did my PhD at SPRI. After assisting in fund-raising for the new library extension, I ran out of SPRI projects. Two babies have filled that gap as has my work at Bridget's Hostel. I am glad to be serving on the Friends Committee as I cannot quite bear to leave SPRI. (Retires 2002)

Derek Fordham, Dipl Arch Hons, RIBA, FRGS

Derek Fordham, when not dreaming of the Arctic, practises as an architect and also runs an Arctic photographic library. he is secretary of The Arctic Club and has led 22 expeditions to Greenland, Svalbard and the Canadian Arctic to ski, climb and share the life of the Inuit. (Retires 2000)

Dr John Heap, CMG

John Heap was the Director of the Institute from 1992 to 1997, and stayed on as Executive Director for another year to see the Shackleton Memorial Library to completion. An Edinburgh geography graduate, he first came to the Institute in 1955 as a member of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (now BAS), to work on Antarctic sea ice distribution, for which he got his PhD. After a 2 year spell at the University of Michigan, he joined Dr Brian Roberts in the Polar Regions Section of the Foreign Office in 1964, and was Head of the Section from 1975 until 1992. (Retires 2003)

Dr David Powell

After taking a degree in Chemistry, and finding the industrial scene rather irksome, I undertook further work on the major element geochemistry of ultrabasic xenoliths followed by an investigation into the high temperature thermodynamics of alkali metal sulphates. This burst of scientific activity was followed by many years of teaching. Now that I have reached the sunny uplands of retirement I divide my time between working at SPRI in a voluntary capacity and compiling a flora of the Azores illustrated in watercolour. My polar exposure has been part of 4 summers, between 1962 and 1984 spent in Svalbard.(Retires 2003)

Peter Speak, MA, MPhil, Cert.Ed. (Cambridge) FRGS

Geographer, trained initially in the Dept of Geography in the year of Frank Debenham as Professor. For many years, lecturer and Head of Dept of Geography at Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (now Anglia University). Inaugurated with David Drewry Polar World Course there for final year undergraduates. Studied at SPRI for MPhil in Polar Studies 1981-82 whilst on sabbatical. Took early retirement to come to SPRI in 1987 as Research Associate. Director of M Phil Course 1989-94. Guest lecturer on Tourist ships to Antarctica and the Arctic, and an author including forthcoming publication of"Biography of Bruce, Scottish Explorer and Nationalist", forthcoming, National Museum of Scotland Press. (Retires 1999)

Dr Charles Swithinbank

Charles Swithinbank has spent his life in polar research since graduating from Oxford 50 years ago. Formerly head of the Earth Sciences Division of the British Antarctic Survey, he pioneered the interpretation of spacecraft observations of ice sheets. His research on naturally-occurring bare ice suitable for landing transport aircraft has led to the development of 2 intercontinental air routes. In addition to many scientific publications, Dr Swithinbank is the author of 2 books: "An Alien in Antarctica", (McDonald and Woodward, 1997); and "Forty Years on Ice", (The Book Guild, 1998). (Retires 2002)

Dr David Walton

With a degree in Botany from Edinburgh University, I first went for an expedition in Iran in 1967. Returning from the desert, I departed in the autumn for the Antarctic and have been working there ever since. Having had a range of different jobs in BAS, I am now Head of the new Environment and Information Division, trying to ensure that BAS science is understood by the public. In my copious spare time my wife and I run Bluntisham Books, publishing new Antarctic books and selling lots of old polar and whaling books. With such an interest in books, my association with SPRI goes back a long way! (Retires 2001)

Ex Officio

  • Professor Keith Richards (Director of SPRI);
  • Mr William Mills (Librarian and Keeper);
  • Mr Robert Headland (Archivist and Museum Curator);
  • Mrs Anne Millar (Secretary).