07 February, 2009

Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs

Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs was an English explorer whose expeditionary team completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica in 1958.

Fuchs was the son of the German immigrant Ernst Fuchs from Jena and of his British wife Violet Watson. Fuchs was born in 1908 in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, and attended Brighton College and St John's College, Cambridge. Fuchs was educated as a geologist, and considered the profession a means to pursue his interest in the outdoors. His first expedition was to Greenland in 1929 with his tutor James Wordie. After graduation in 1930, he traveled 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 Ph.D from Cambridge in 1937.

In February 1936, his daughter Hilary was born. Fuchs organized 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.

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.

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 organization'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. His wife died in 1990 of a heart attack. The next year, he married Eleanor Honnywill, his former personal assistant at the British Antarctic Survey. Sir Vivian Fuchs died on 11 November 1999, at the age of 91.

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