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American Philosophical Society
Polar Hayes: The Life and Contributions of Isaac Israel Hayes, M.D.
Douglas W. Wamsley
In the mid-19th century as an ambitious young country expanded its horizons westward, Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, a young physician from an Orthodox Quaker family in the rural farmland of Pennsylvania, turned his eyes to the North. As a member of the harrowing American arctic expedition under the command of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane in search of the lost British explorer Sir John Franklin, Hayes became obsessed with making his own mark in the far northern polar regions. He organized his own privately funded voyage to the Arctic in 1860, during which he claimed to have reached a ‘farthest north’ and to have stood on the edge of the fabled “Open Polar Sea,” a mythical ice-free zone in the high northern latitudes. Through his own hard fought experiences, combined with the knowledge learned from native Greenlanders or Polar Eskimos, he successfully influenced the course of Arctic discovery, causing perceptive explorers to follow his guidance and lead. Directing the same ambition to humanitarian and social causes, during the devastating U.S. Civil War and as an elected politician in New York State during its Gilded Age, Hayes served the ‘public good’ for a decade, with accomplishments as far reaching as his Arctic service, but little recognized even during his lifetime. In this book, which draws upon Hayes family papers, the little viewed diaries from Hayes’s own expeditions, as well as other unpublished primary sources, the story emerges of a remarkable but forgotten explorer, writer, politician, and humanitarian who epitomized the rugged and restless spirit of adventure and individualism of 19th-century America. Illus.
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