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Michell, William Arthur Rupert

Michell, William Arthur Rupert

Alias: None

Title: Dr

Rank: Captain (Canadian Expeditionary Force)

Dates: 1879-1966

Nationality: Canadian

Awards: Polar Medal (bronze)

William Arthur Rupert Michell was born in Perth, Ontario, on 18 October 1879. He moved to Toronto to study at medical school, graduating in 1902, and moved to Britain in 1906 to conduct his postgraduate training in Edinburgh. As a graduate he spent a year sailing to Africa.

Michell joined the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) as ship's surgeon. His main medical contribution while on board was helping with the extraction of Mackintosh's eye, after a crane hook had swung around and hit him while he was unloading stores. It was a skilful extraction considering the tools available: a retractor made out of rigging wire and a single oil lamp. He was chosen to be part of the seven-man over-wintering party if Shackleton's South Pole team did not return to Cape Royds in time.

After the expedition, Michell returned to Canada and he set up a doctor's practice in Northern Ontario, and joined Shackleton on his lecture tour of the expedition when he visited Canada. He enlisted in World War I as a captain in the Canadian Expeditionary Force as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He went on to become director of the North Bay Offices of the Ontario Department of Health and later transferred to the Ottawa Department of Health in 1935.

Michell had a very successful career in medicine, explorating and in the military; he was duly rewarded with a Polar Medal and two other medals, including the Gilt Victory Medal for his efforts during World War I. He lived a long and happy retirement with his wife Violet Michell, and eventually died after 17 years of retirement on 20 July 1966. Michell's Antarctic diary, papers and medals are held in the National Archives of Canada.


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