In Memory of Brad Washburn

2007-01-11 17:09:19.000 – Peter Crane,  Director of Programs


It is with great regret that the Observatory notes the passing of one of its Life Trustees, and one of its greatest supporters. Brad Washburn died last night in Lexington, Massachusetts. He was 96 years of age.

A brief note such as this cannot begin to do justice to the formidable career of Brad. He was an explorer, an educator, a photographer, a cartographer, and more.

As an explorer, he led expeditions to unmapped areas of Alaska; he pioneered the use of aerial photography and ski-equipped aircraft to climb untrodden peaks, and discovered the West Buttress route on Denali, which has become that mountain’s standard route of ascent. He was a relative youth when he forged a solid relationship, based on remarkable accomplishments, with the National Geographic Society. In later years, he used his knowledge and enthusiasm to encourage younger mountaineers to seek out new routes on challenging mountains.

As a photographer, he captured on film dramatic images of the White Mountains, of the Alps, of peaks in Alaska, and other locales. His work combined scientific purpose and artistic sensitivity; his photographs have been likened to those of Ansel Adams.

As a cartographer, he mapped such places as Denali, Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon – and Mount Washington.

As an educator, his first efforts were modest ones – a guidebook to the Presidential Range, and a few books on the exploration of Mount Washington, the Alps, and Mount Fairweather for youth (written when he himself was quite young). His lectures on his expeditions, and his magazine articles, engaged many listeners and readers. On a vastly greater scale, he transformed the stuffy little New England Museum of Natural History into today’s Boston Museum of Science, a world-class science center. The Museum is a mighty monument to his drive and ability – including his ability to persuade others to support the worthy cause of learning more about our world, and worlds beyond our own.

And more….

Brad was generous with his knowledge, and generous in other ways, too. He presented the Observatory with original negatives from his 1937 photographic flight over the White Mountains, specifically to help this organization produce revenue to sustain its activities through sales of those images. That act of generosity will help the Observatory for decades to come.

Our condolences go to Brad’s family, including his widow Barbara (who, with Brad’s guidance and her own grit and gumption, became the first woman to climb Denali). Rest assured that, for generations hence, many will benefit from Brad’s great work in many fields.To view Brad’s photography of the White Mountains please click here


Peter Crane,  Director of Programs

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