Charles Snead Houston

Charles Snead Houston
Charles Snead Houston
Born August 24, 1913(1913-08-24)
New York City, New York
Died September 27, 2009(2009-09-27) (aged 96)[1]
Burlington, Vermont
Education Harvard College; Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Occupation Physician; Mountaineer; Scientist; Peace Corps Administrator
Spouse Dorcas Tiemeyer Houston,
Children 1 daughter Penny, and two sons David and Robin.
Parents Oscar Rempel Houston and Nelly Snead MacDonald

Charles Snead Houston (August 24, 1913 – September 27, 2009) was an American physician, mountaineer, high-altitude investigator, inventor, author, film-maker, and former Peace Corps administrator. He made two important and celebrated attempts to climb the Himalayan mountain K2.


Early life and education

Houston was born in New York in 1913 and grew up in Great Neck on Long Island. He was educated at Harvard University and earned a Doctor of Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.


In 1936, Houston was a member of a celebrated expedition led by the British climber H.W. Tilman to the top of Nanda Devi in India, the highest mountain climbed at that time. In 1938, he was the leader of the first American Karakoram expedition to K2. Although he did not reach the summit, his party mapped a route to the top that was later used by the Italian team that first summited the mountain in 1954.

He attempted K2 again in 1953 (see Third American Karakoram Expedition). A member of the team, Art Gilkey, became ill (probably with thrombophlebitis) as they approached the summit. The team reversed direction and tried to carry Gilkey down. However, he was lost in a disastrous cascade of events which included a fall in which the rest of the roped-together team survived only by virtue of a single ice axe that suspended them all. This feat, that came to be known as "The Belay" was performed by Pete Schoening.[2][3]

Medical practice and teaching

Houston practiced internal medicine in Exeter, New Hampshire and Aspen, Colorado. Later, he joined the faculty at the University of Vermont as Professor of Medicine. He retired from the faculty in 1979.

Medical research

Houston began his study of the effects of high altitude as a naval flight surgeon in World War II. He was in charge of Operation Everest (1947) in which four subjects were taken to a simulated altitude of 8850 m over 34 days in a compression chamber. These studies demonstrated that careful acclimatization would allow pilots to fly unpressurized planes to altitudes of 15,000 feet and higher. This capacity afforded the US Army Air Corps an important tactical advantage.

He was among the first to study High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (1958), and High Altitude Retinal Hemorrhage (1968). He authored numerous books and articles about mountain medicine. Starting in 1975, he organized the International Hypoxia Symposia in the Canadian Rockies.

In 1996 he was awarded the King Albert Medal of Merit to honor his "singular achievements" in the mountain world [1].

Houston was also involved with early attempts to construct an artificial heart. Although not successful, his design was influential in later developments, including the Jarvik-7 model that was used with some success.

Peace Corps service

From 1962 to 1965, Houston served as the first Country Director of the Peace Corps for India. During his tenure, the volunteers in India grew from 6 to 250. He was instrumental in developing a doctors' division within the Corps.

Works by Charles S. Houston

Robert H. Bates and Charles H. Houston (1939). Five Miles High. New York, NY: The Lyons Press. 

Charles H. Houston and Robert H. Bates (1954). K2, The Savage Mountain. New York, NY: The Lyons Press. 

Charles S. Houston (1980). Going high, the story of man and altitude. American Alpine Club. 

Charles S. Houston (1982). High Altitude Physiology Study: Collected Papers. Arctic Institute of North America. 

John R. Sutton, Charles S. Houston, Geoffrey Coates (eds.) (1987). Hypoxia and cold. New York: Praeger. 

Charles Houston (1993). High altitude: illness and wellness. Merrillville, IN: ICS Books. 

Charles Houston (2005). Going Higher: Oxygen Man and Mountains (5th ed. ed.). Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers Books. 


Bernadette McDonald (2007). Brotherhood of the Rope: The biography of Charles Houston. Seattle, WA: The Mountaineers Books. 

External links


  1. ^ "Doctor, climber Houston dies at 96". Burlington free Press. 2009-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Schoening Ice Axe". Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. 
  3. ^ Rowell, Galen (1977). In The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. pp. 226–234. ISBN 0-87156-184-0. 

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Houston (disambiguation) — Houston can refer to:Cities and towns* Houston, Texas, United States of America * Houston, Renfrewshire, United Kingdom, the original Scottish settlement of this name * Houston, British Columbia, Canada;United States (other) * Houston, Alabama *… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Houston — is the name of: Charles Snead Houston (1913–2009), American mountaineer, physician, scientist, and Peace Corps worker Charles Hamilton Houston (1895–1950), American civil rights lawyer and educator Charles Houston (actor) (1931–2006), British… …   Wikipedia

  • Shell Houston Open — Houston Open redirects here. For the darts tournament, see Houston Open (darts). Shell Houston Open Tournament information Location Humble, Texas Established 1946 (1922) …   Wikipedia

  • William Charles Rogers — Bill Rogers Personalia Geburtsdatum 10. September 1951 Geburtsort Waco, Texas Nationalität Vereinigte Staaten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bob Charles — Bob Charles …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nekrolog 3. Quartal 2009 — Nekrolog ◄◄ | ◄ | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 Nekrolog 2009: 1. Quartal | 2. Quartal | 3. Quartal | 4. Quartal Weitere Ereignisse | Nekrolog (Tiere) | Filmjahr… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Höhenmedizin — Die Höhenmedizin ist ein Teilgebiet der Gebirgsmedizin (auch Bergmedizin oder Alpinmedizin). Sie befasst sich fachspartenübergreifend speziell mit den gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen von Aufenthalten des Menschen in großen Höhen, insbesondere beim… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Deaths in September 2009 — Contents 1 September 2009 1.1 30 1.2 29 1.3 28 …   Wikipedia

  • 2006 Texas Longhorn football team — NCAATeamFootballSeason Year=2006 Team=Texas Longhorns ImageSize=130 Conference=Big 12 Conference Division=South ShortConference=Big 12 CoachRank=13 APRank=13 BCSRank=19 Record=10 3 ConfRecord=6 2 HeadCoach=Mack Brown OffCoach= Greg Davis DefCoach …   Wikipedia

  • golf — golfer, n. /golf, gawlf/; Brit. also /gof/, n. 1. a game in which clubs with wooden or metal heads are used to hit a small, white ball into a number of holes, usually 9 or 18, in succession, situated at various distances over a course having… …   Universalium