Thomas Poulter

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Thomas Charles Poulter
Born(1897-03-03)March 3, 1897
DiedJune 4, 1978(1978-06-04) (aged 81)
Known for Antarctic exploration
Scientific career
Institutions Iowa Wesleyan College
Illinois Institute of Technology
SRI International

Thomas Charles Poulter (March 3, 1897 June 4, 1978) was a scientist and antarctic explorer who worked at the Armour Institute of Technology and SRI International, where he was an associate director. [1]

SRI International United States research institute

SRI International (SRI) is an American nonprofit scientific research institute and organization headquartered in Menlo Park, California. The trustees of Stanford University established SRI in 1946 as a center of innovation to support economic development in the region.


Early life

He was born on March 3, 1897 to Micajah Poulter in Salem, Iowa.

Salem, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Salem is a city in Henry County, Iowa, United States. The population was 383 at the 2010 census.

Early career

While he was a physics professor at Iowa Wesleyan College he recognized James Van Allen as a student and put him to work, at 35 cents an hour, preparing seismic and magnetic equipment for the Antarctic Expedition. [2]

James Van Allen American nuclear physicist

James Alfred Van Allen was an American space scientist at the University of Iowa. He was instrumental in establishing the field of magnetospheric research in space.

He was second in command on the Second Byrd Antarctic Mission to the South Pole with Richard E. Byrd. The Poulter Glacier was named after him by Admiral Byrd. [3] [4] Byrd credited him with saving his life as the expedition leader approached death from carbon monoxide poisoning. [5]

Richard E. Byrd aviation pioneer, Medal of Honor recipient and United States Navy officer (1888-1957)

Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. was an American naval officer and explorer. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest honor for valor given by the United States, and was a pioneering American aviator, polar explorer, and organizer of polar logistics. Aircraft flights in which he served as a navigator and expedition leader crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a segment of the Arctic Ocean, and a segment of the Antarctic Plateau. Byrd claimed that his expeditions had been the first to reach both the North Pole and the South Pole by air. However, his claim to have reached the North Pole is disputed.

Poulter Glacier is a glacier in Antarctica, about 180 miles from the South Pole at an elevation of 8,000 feet. It flows east from the Antarctic Plateau past the Rawson Mountains in the Queen Maud Mountains and joins with the Scott Glacier. It was discovered by the Byrd Antarctic Expedition II Geology Party under Quinn Blackburn. It was named by Admiral Richard Byrd for Thomas Poulter.

Carbon monoxide chemical compound

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly less dense than air. It is toxic to animals that use hemoglobin as an oxygen carrier when encountered in concentrations above about 35 ppm, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal biological functions. In the atmosphere, it is spatially variable and short lived, having a role in the formation of ground-level ozone.

After his first expedition he became the Scientific Director of the Armour Research Foundation at the Armour Institute of Technology (later Illinois Institute of Technology) where he developed the Antarctic Snow Cruiser (a.k.a. "Penguin 1"). [6] This device was built for and taken along on his second expedition with Admiral Byrd in 1939. [1]

Illinois Institute of Technology university

Illinois Institute of Technology is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. It was established from the merger in 1940 of Armour Institute and Lewis Institute. The university has programs in engineering, science, psychology, architecture, business, communications, industrial technology, information technology, design and law. It traces its history to several 19th-century engineering and professional education institutions in the United States. The Institute of Design, Chicago-Kent College of Law, and Midwest College of Engineering were also merged into it.

Antarctic Snow Cruiser vehicle intended to facilitate transport in Antarctica

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a vehicle designed from 1937 to 1939 under the direction of Thomas Poulter, intended to facilitate transport in Antarctica. The Snow Cruiser was also known as "The Penguin," "Penguin 1" or "Turtle" in some published material.

Later career

In 1948 he joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, where he remained until his death in 1978. While at SRI he did research involving dynamic phenomena including explosives weather and eventually Biosonar. [6] [7] He became interested in seals after visiting the elephant seal colony at Año Nuevo Island off the coast of California in 1961. The seal colony there included elephant seals, sea lions harbor seals and many others. He began studying the seal colonies in 1962 and was active in having the island protected as a biological preserve in 1967. [1]

Weather Short-term state of the atmosphere

Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the lowest level of the atmosphere, the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate is the term for the averaging of atmospheric conditions over longer periods of time. When used without qualification, "weather" is generally understood to mean the weather of Earth.

Elephant seal genus of mammals

Elephant seals are large, oceangoing earless seals in the genus Mirounga. The two species, the northern elephant seal and the southern elephant seal, were both hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 19th century, but the numbers have since recovered.

Año Nuevo Island island in the United States of America

Año Nuevo Island is a small island off Año Nuevo Point on the coast of Northern California, between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. The island has an area of 9 acres (3.6 ha). It is an important breeding site for northern elephant seals and the endangered Steller's sea lion, as well as several species of seabirds, including rhinoceros auklets, Brandt's cormorants and western gulls. Due to the number of seals and sea lions, great white sharks are frequently spotted patrolling the waters around the island. It is protected as part of the Año Nuevo State Reserve.

The Poulter Laboratory at SRI International was named after him. After he retired from managing Poulter Labs he founded the Bio Sonar Lab and Marine Mammal Study Center for SRI in the Coyote Hills outside of Fremont CA. [8] There he did research on a number of marine mammals. He was fond of them as he described in a "Note" for the Arctic. [9]

He died on June 4, 1978 in Menlo Park, California while working in his laboratory. [1]


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Ross Sea A deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Nielson, Donald (2006). A Heritage of Innovation: SRI's First Half Century. Menlo Park, California: SRI International. pp. 11–2–11–4. ISBN   978-0-9745208-1-0.
  2. Sullivan, Walter (2006-08-10). "James A. Van Allen, Discoverer of Earth-Circling Radiation Belts, Is Dead at 91". New York Times . Retrieved 2012-04-08.
  3. Poulter, Thomas (1977). Over the years. Menlo Park, California: Stanford Research Institute.
  4. Into Little America documentary film (1935)
  5. Byrd, Richard Evelyn. Alone.
  6. 1 2 Mills, William James (2003). Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   1-57607-422-6.
  7. "Thomas C. Poulter". History for Sale. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  8. "Thos. C. Poulter". SRI International . Retrieved 2012-02-11.
  9. Poulter, Thomas (December 1969). "The affectionate walrus". Arctic . 22 (4): 438.