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Edward Wilson (1872-1912) accompanied Robert Falcon Scott on both his celebrated Antarctic voyages: the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904 and the Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913. Wilson served as Junior Surgeon and Zoologist on Discovery and, on this expedition, with Scott and Ernest Shackleton he set a new Furthest South on 30 December 1902. He was Chief of Scientific Staff on the Terra Nova Expedition and reached the South Pole with Scott, Lawrence Oates, Henry Robertson Bowers and Edgar Evans on 18 January 1912, arriving there four weeks after the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Wilson and his four companions died on the return journey. Trained as a physician, Wilson was also a skilled artist.
His drawings and paintings lavishly illustrated both expeditions. He was the last major exploration artist; technological developments in the field of photography were soon to make cameras practical as a way of recording journeys into the unknown. This biography, the first full account of the Antarctic hero, traces his life from childhood to his tragic death.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this excellent book. Before opening it, I knew little about Edward Wilson, and this biography fills an important gap in our understanding of early Antarctic exploration,and in particular, of Scotts' last expedition. Indeed, reliving this tragic adventure through the pages of Isabel William's book rekindled my interest in the early history of Antarctica. Living, as I do, in the South island of New Zealand, I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit some of the places mentioned in the book, as well as to see the wonderful exhibition, mounted by the Christchurch Art Gallery, of many of Ponting's original photographs.
I now look forward to reading Ms William's sequel, 'Captain Scotts Invaluable Assistant' as no doubt this will also throw light on another 'neglected' Antarctic hero, Edgar Evans.
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