SCOTT & The South-Pole

Thomas Griffith Taylor ("Griff")

Taylor was born at Walthamstow, England. His father was a metallurgical chemist. At the age of 13 years, in 1893, he emigrated with his family to New South Wales, Australia, where his father secured a position as a government metallurgist. Taylor went to University at Sydney, where he attained a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Engineering (mining and metallurgy).

After teaching for a period of time he was granted a researching fellowship at Cambridge in England. In 1909 he was elected a fellow of the Geological Society, London. While at Cambridge he established friendships with Priestley, Wright and Debenham (Wright married Priestley's sister after he returned to England from the Antarctica). The four of them were invited to go with Scott on The Terra Nova Expedition (19101912). Taylor was to act as the Senior Geologist. It does not appear that Taylor formed part of Scott's team which went south to the pole, though he carried out a number of exploration trips east and west of the base camp.

Cherry had this to say about Taylor:

"He was a greedy scientist, and he also wielded a fluent pen. Consequently his output during the year and a half which he spent with us was large, and ranged from the results of the two excellent scientific journeys which he led in the Western Mountains, to this work during the latter half of September. ... When his pen was still, his tongue wagged, and the arguments he led were legion. The hut was a merrier place for his presence. When the weather was good he might be seen striding over the rocks with a complete disregard of the effect on his clothes: he wore through a pair of boots quicker than anybody I have ever known, and his socks had to be mended with string. ... [He carried out many a scientific experiment and] With equal ferocity he would throw himself into his curtained bunk because he was bored, or emerge from it to take part in some argument which was troubling the table. ... He was a demon note-taker, and he had a passion for being equipped so that he could cope with any observation which might turn up. Thus Old Griff on a sledge journey might have notebooks protruding from every pocket, and hung about his person, a sundial, a prismatic compass, a sheath knife, a pair of binoculars, a geological hammer, chronometer, pedometer, camera, aneroid and other items of surveying gear, as well as his goggles and mitts. And in his hand might be an ice-axe which he used as he went along to the possible advancement of science, but the certain disorganization of his companions.
Indeed Bowers had been of the very greatest use to Scott in the working out of these plans. Not only had he all the details of stores at his finger-tips, but he had studied polar clothing and polar food, was full of plans and alternative plans, and, best of all, refused to be beaten by any problem which presented itself. The actual distribution of weights between dogs, motors and ponies, and between the different ponies, was largely left in his hands. We had only to lead our ponies out on the day of the start and we were sure to find our sledges ready, each with the right load and weight. To the leader of an expedition such a man was worth his weight in gold."
Later in life, in 1929, Taylor 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. I am not sure how long he was at Toronto, but, in 1951, he returned to Sydney; there, to end out his life.


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Peter Landry