Thomas Griffith Taylor


Thomas Griffith Taylor

Thomas Griffith "Grif" Taylor (1 December 1880 - 5 November 1963) was a British / Australian geographer, anthropologist and world explorer. He was a survivor of Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica (1910-1913).cite news |first=John |last=Huxley |title=Eccentric explorer taken out of the shadows |url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/eccentric-explorer-taken-out-of-the-shadows/2008/09/16/1221330837177.html |publisher="The Sydney Morning Herald" |date=2008-09-17 |accessdate=2008-09-17 ]

Early life

Taylor was born in the town of Walthamstow, England, to parents James Taylor, a metallurgical chemist, and Lily Agnes, née Griffiths. Within a year, the family had moved to Serbia where his father was manager of a copper mine. Three years later, they returned to Britain when his father became director of analytical chemistry for a major steelworks company. In 1893, the family emigrated to Australia, and Taylor, age 13, attended The King's School in Sydney. He enrolled in arts at the University of Sydney in 1899, later transferring to science, attaining his Bachelor of Science in 1904, and Bachelor of Engineering (mining and metallurgy) in 1905.cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120206b.htm |title=Taylor, Thomas Griffith (1880 - 1963) |accessdate=2008-09-16 |date= |year=2006 |publisher=Australian Dictionary of Biography ]

Antarctic Expedition

The explorer Robert Falcon Scott contracted Taylor to the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica. Scott was looking for an experienced team, and appointed Taylor as Senior Geologist. It was agreed that Taylor would act as representative for the weather service, due to the known effects of Antarctic weather conditions on Australia's climate.

Taylor was the leader of the successful geological team, responsible for the first maps and geological interpretations of significant areas of Antarctica. In January, 1911, he led a expedition to the coastal area west of McMurdo Sound, in a region between the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the Koettlitz Glacier.See Scott's instructions, SLE, Vol. II, pp. 184–85.] He led a second successful expedition in November, 1911, this time centring on the Granite Harbour region approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of Butter Point.Scott's instructions; SLE, Vol. II, pp. 222–23.] Meanwhile, Scott led a party of five on a journey to the South Pole, in a race to get there before a rival expedition by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Scott's entire team perished.

Taylor's party was due to be picked up by the "Terra Nova" supply ship on 15 January 1912, but the ship could not reach them. They waited until 5 February before trekking southward, and were rescued from the ice when they were finally spotted by the ship on 18 February. Geological specimens from both Western Mountains expeditions were retrieved by Terra Nova in January 1913. Later that year, Taylor was awarded the King's Polar medal and made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Taylor's physiographical and geomorphological Antarctic research earned him a doctorate (D.Sc) from the University of Sydney in 1916 . He was made Associate Professor of Geography in 1921 becoming the founding head of the Department of Geography at the university. He was an outspoken critic of the Australian Government's immigration policy, which was mainly aimed at increasing the population as quickly as possible. Taylor argued that Australia's agricultural resources were limited, and that this, together with other environmental factors, meant that Australia would not be able to support the population goal of 100 million which some optimistically predicted. He was severely criticised as 'unpatriotic' for this 'pessimistic' view of Australia's future development. A textbook he had written containing these views was banned from schools by the Western Australian education authority. Taylor was a strong exponent of the controversial concept of environmental determinism with the view that "physical environment determines culture." In 1927, he became the first President of the Geographical Society of New South Wales.

In 1929, he accepted a post as Senior Professor of Geography at the University of Chicago. In 1936 he moved to the University of Toronto founding the Geography department there. In 1940 he was elected president of the Association of American Geographers, the first non-American to be elected to the post. After retiring from his post at the university in 1951, he returned to Sydney. In 1954 he was elected to the Australian Academy of Science, the only geographer to receive this distinction. In 1958 he published his autobiography "Journeyman Taylor", and in 1959 was named the first President of the Institute of Australian Geographers.

Taylor died in the Sydney suburb of Manly on 5 November, 1963, aged 82. In 2001, an Australian postage stamp commemorated Taylor and fellow explorer Douglas Mawson. Taylor was the author of some 20 books and 200 scientific articles.

He was the brother-in-law of fellow Terra Nova expedition members Raymond Priestley and C.S. Wright.

References


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