Vivian Fuchs

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Sir Vivian Fuchs

Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Vivian Fuchs, 1958.jpg
Sir Vivian Fuchs (right) pictured with Sir Edmund Hillary in Wellington after the return of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1958.
Vivian Ernest Fuchs

(1908-02-11)11 February 1908
Died11 November 1999(1999-11-11) (aged 91)
Education Brighton College
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge

Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs FRS (11 February 1908 – 11 November 1999) was an English explorer whose expeditionary team completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica in 1958.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'.

Antarctica Polar continent in the Earths southern hemisphere

Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,200,000 square kilometres, it is the fifth-largest continent. For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.



Fuchs was the son of the German immigrant Ernst Fuchs from the Jena area and of his British wife Violet Watson. He was born in 1908 in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, and attended Brighton College and St John's College, Cambridge. He was educated as a geologist, and considered the profession a means of pursuing his interest in the outdoors. He was a member of the Sedgwick Club at Cambridge. [1] His first expedition was to Greenland in 1929 with his tutor James Wordie. After graduation in 1930, he travelled with a Cambridge University expedition to study the geology of East African lakes with respect to climate fluctuation. Next, he joined anthropologist Louis Leakey on an expedition to Olduvai Gorge. In 1933, Fuchs married his cousin, Joyce Connell. A world traveller in her own right, Joyce accompanied Vivian on his expedition to Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana) in 1934. The findings from this expedition, in which two of their companions were lost, brought Fuchs his PhD from Cambridge in 1937.

Jena Place in Thuringia, Germany

Jena is a German university city and the second largest city in Thuringia. Together with the nearby cities of Erfurt and Weimar, it forms the central metropolitan area of Thuringia with approximately 500,000 inhabitants, while the city itself has a population of about 110,000. Jena is a centre of education and research; the Friedrich Schiller University was founded in 1558 and had 18,000 students in 2017 and the Ernst-Abbe-Fachhochschule Jena counts another 5,000 students. Furthermore, there are many institutes of the leading German research societies.

Freshwater, Isle of Wight village and parish on the Isle of Wight, England

Freshwater is a large village and civil parish at the western end of the Isle of Wight, England. Freshwater Bay is a small cove on the south coast of the Island which also gives its name to the nearby part of Freshwater. Freshwater sits at the western end of the region known as the Back of the Wight or the West Wight which is a popular tourist area.

Brighton College English boarding school

Brighton College is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school for boys and girls aged 3 to 18 in Brighton, England. The school has three sites: Brighton College ; Brighton College Preparatory School ; and the Pre-Prep School.

In February 1936, his daughter Hilary was born. Fuchs organised an expedition to investigate the Lake Rukwa basin in southern Tanzania in 1937. He returned in 1938 to find that his second daughter, Rosalind, had severe cerebral palsy. Rosalind died in 1945. His son, Peter, was born in 1940.

Lake Rukwa soda lake

Lake Rukwa is an endorheic lake in the Rukwa Valley of southwestern Tanzania.

Tanzania country in Africa

Tanzania officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a country in eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands at the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.

At the age of thirty, he enrolled in the Territorial Army, and was dispatched to the Gold Coast from 1942 to July 1943. He returned home and was posted to London at Second Army headquarters in a civil affairs position. The Second Army was transferred to Portsmouth for the D-Day landings, and Fuchs eventually reached Germany in time to see the release of prisoners from the Belsen concentration camp. He governed the Plön district in Schleswig-Holstein until October 1946, when he was discharged from military service with the rank of Major.

Gold Coast (British colony) former British colony from 1867 until 1957, now Ghana

The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa from 1867 to its independence as the nation of Ghana in 1957.

Portsmouth City & unitary authority area in England

Portsmouth is a port city in Hampshire, England, with a total population of 205,400 residents. The city of Portsmouth is nicknamed Pompey and is mainly built on Portsea Island, a flat, low-lying island measuring 24 square kilometres in area, just off the south-east coast of Hampshire. Uniquely, Portsmouth is the only island city in the United Kingdom, and is the only city whose population density exceeds that of London.

Plön Place in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Plön is the district seat of the Plön district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and has about 8,700 inhabitants. It lies right on the shores of Schleswig-Holstein's biggest lake, the Great Plön Lake, as well as on several smaller lakes, touching the town on virtually all sides. The town's landmark is Plön Castle, a chateau built in the 17th century on a hill overlooking the town.

Fuchs was involved with the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (now the British Antarctic Survey) beginning in 1947, when he applied for a geologist position. The organisation's goal was to promote Britain's claims to Antarctica, and secondarily to support scientific research. In 1950 Fuchs was asked to develop the new London scientific bureau of the Survey, to plan research in the Antarctic and support research publication. He would eventually become director of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, from 1958 (after his return from the successful Antarctic expedition) until 1973. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. [2]

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation. It is part of the Natural Environment Research Council. With over 400 staff, BAS takes an active role in Antarctic affairs, operating five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in both polar regions, as well as addressing key global and regional issues. This involves joint research projects with over 40 UK universities and more than 120 national and international collaborations.

Royal Society English learned society for science

The President, Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, is a learned society. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society is the United Kingdom's and Commonwealth of Nations' Academy of Sciences and fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement.

His wife died in Oxford in 1990 of a heart attack, aged 83. The next year, he married Eleanor Honnywill, his former personal assistant at the British Antarctic Survey, in Kensington and Chelsea, London. Sir Vivian Fuchs died in Cambridge [3] on 11 November 1999, aged 91.

Oxford City and non-metropolitan district in England

Oxford is a university city in south central England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With a population of approximately 155,000, it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, with one of the fastest growing populations in the UK, and it remains the most ethnically diverse area in Oxfordshire county. The city is 51 miles (82 km) from London, 61 miles (98 km) from Bristol, 59 miles (95 km) from Southampton, 57 miles (92 km) from Birmingham and 24 miles (39 km) from Reading.

Eleanor Honnywill was instrumental in supporting the work of British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Royal borough in United Kingdom

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) is an inner London borough with royal status. It is the smallest borough in London and the second smallest district in England; it is one of the most densely populated administrative regions in the United Kingdom. It includes affluent areas such as Notting Hill, Central Kensington, South Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge.

The Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition

Fuchs is best known as the leader of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a Commonwealth-sponsored expedition that completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica. Planning for the expedition began in 1953, and envisioned the use of Sno-Cat tractors to cross the continent in 100 days, starting at the Weddell Sea, ending at the Ross Sea, and crossing the South Pole.

Fuchs and his party arrived in Antarctica in January 1957 after camp had been set up. The party departed from Shackleton Base on 24 November 1957. During the trek, a variety of scientific data were collected from seismic soundings and gravimetric readings. Scientists established the thickness of ice at the pole, and the existence of a land mass beneath the ice. On 2 March 1958, Fuchs and company completed the 100-day trip by reaching Scott Base, having travelled 2,158 miles.

In 1958, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. [4] He co-wrote, with Sir Edmund Hillary, The Crossing of Antarctica. In 1959 he was awarded the Hans Egede Medal by the Royal Danish Geographical Society. [5]

Fuchs Medal

The Fuchs Medal was created in 1973 for "outstanding devotion to the British Antarctic Survey's interests, beyond the call of normal duty, by men or women who are or were members of the Survey, or closely connected with its work."

The medal is awarded to one or two people per year for their contribution to the British Antarctic Survey.

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The 1955–58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) was a Commonwealth-sponsored expedition that successfully completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica, via the South Pole. It was the first expedition to reach the South Pole overland for 46 years, preceded only by Amundsen's and Scott's respective parties in 1911 and 1912.

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Surgeon Captain Edward W. Bingham, "Ted Bingham", was a British polar explorer who had the rare third clasp added to his Polar Medal.


  1. ""Fuchs, Sir Vivian Ernest. ( 1908-1999) Knight Explorer" - Search - Archives Hub". Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  2. Laws, R.M (2001). "Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs. 11 February 1908 - 11 November 1999: Elected F.R.S. 1974". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . 47: 203. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2001.0012.
  3. Deaths and Marriages England and Wales 1984–2006
  4. "No. 41388". The London Gazette . 16 May 1958. p. 3090.
  5. "(in Danish)". Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2018.