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Frank Debenham

Frank Debenham

1883-1965. Director of the Institute from 1926 until 1946.

Frank Debenham was born on 26 December 1883 in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia. He was educated at the University of Sydney, initially gaining an arts degree before returning to gain a science degree in 1910, specializing in geology under Professor Edgeworth David. In 1910, he joined the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Terra Nova) as geologist, and made extensive geological and topographical surveys of the mountains and glaciers west of McMurdo Sound. Antarctica. He was also responsible for the photographic work of the expedition after the official photographer, Herbert Ponting, left in 1912.

On his return from the expedition, Debenham went to Cambridge to write up the expedition results, but this was interrupted by the First World War. Joining the Army, he rose to the rank of Major and saw action in Salonika, where he was severely wounded. On his return to Cambridge after demobilization, he resumed work on the expedition reports on geology and maps and surveys. His abilities in this field were recognised when he was appointed Royal Geographical Society Lecturer in surveying at the University of Cambridge in 1919. This was followed by a Readership in Geography, and, in 1931, he was appointed first Professor of Geography at the University. Instrumental in founding the Scott Polar Research Institute in 1920, he was its first Director from 1926 until 1946. He also founded The Polar Record in 1931, becoming its first editor. After his retirement in 1949, he travelled and worked in central Africa and published scientific papers and books on polar and geographical matters. He died in Cambridge on 23 November 1965.

Debenham is commemorated in the Antarctic by Debenham Glacier (77°10' S 162°38' E), which flows into the northern part of Wilson Piedmont Glacier, the Debenham Islands (68°8' S 67°7' W), between Millerand Island and the west coast of Graham Land, and by Debenham Peak (67°21' S 50°26' E.) in the Scott Mountains.

Frank Debenham Frank Debenham
P2005/5/482 - Frank Debenham and plane table.
September 9th 1911
Photographer: Herbert Ponting
British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13
P49/10 - Frank Denham
Photographer: Ramsey & Muspratt