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Professor Frank Debenham, O.B.E

Professor Frank Debenham, O.B.E

July 21st - September 21st, 2005

From its inception in 1920-26 until 1946, Frank Debenham (1883-1965) was the Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and, from 1931, Professor of Geography at Cambridge University. The idea of a repository of polar information and a centre from which future expeditions could draw on the support and experience of others came to Frank Debenham on the slopes of Mt. Erebus in 1912. At that time he was a member of Capt. Scott's British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13), having been recruited as the expedition's geologist. This exhibition draws on the Institute's library, archive, museum and picture collections to illustrate Debenham's achievements.

Debenham surveying with plane table on British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913
(Photo: H. G. Ponting © Scott Polar Research Institute)

Thanks to the generosity of his daughter, Barbara Debenham, the Institute was presented in 2001 with three of his medals to go with the Polar Medal already in our collection. These are the Patron's and Scott medals of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingston Medal of the Hispanic Society of America. At the same time, the Institute was also presented with Professor Debenham's surveying and drawing instruments. These include a theodolite, artificial horizon, aneroid barometer, trough compass, camera lucida, pendulum inclinometer, pocket rangefinder, photometer, pedometer, tape measure, and two beautiful sets of drafting instruments. All are fine examples, with the theodolite particularly interesting for the chamois gaskets around knobs and eye pieces to prevent frostbite on contact with skin. All of these artefacts are currently on display, alongside a range of publications by and about the Institute's founder.

The exhibition is open 2.30-4.00 pm, Tuesday - Saturday.