About Alexander Hamilton Rice, Jr.
Alexander Hamilton Rice, Jr. (b. August 29, 1875, Boston, Massachusetts – d. July 21, 1956, Newport, Rhode Island) was an American physician, geographer, geologist and explorer. He graduated from Harvard University in 1898 with an A.B. degree, and earned his medical degree (M.D.) in 1904 also at Harvard. He was professor of geography at Harvard University from 1929 to 1952, and served as the founder and director of the Harvard Institute of Geographical Exploration.
Early life and military service
Rice was the grandson of former Boston Mayor, Massachusetts Governor and U.S. Congressman Alexander Hamilton Rice. He was born and raised in Boston, attended the Noble and Greenough School and educated at Harvard University. In 1915, he married the widowed RMS Titanic survivor, Eleanor Elkins Widener. During World War I, he volunteered for overseas service with the surgical staff of the Ambulance Americain in Paris, France (1914–1915). From 1915–1917, he served as the director of Hôpital 72, Societe de Secours aux Blesses Militairs, also in Paris. On the entry of the United States into the War in 1917, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve Forces, and was assigned as the director of the 2nd Naval District Training School for Reserve Officers at Newport, Rhode Island, where he served until 1921. After the War, he was awarded the Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur for his service to the People of France. On 7 Nov 1922, Rice ran as a Republican for U.S. Congress in the Massachusetts 12th Congressional District, but was defeated by Democrat James A. Gallivan.
Exploration and academic career
As a geographer and explorer, Rice specialized in rivers.
He had begun to explore the Amazon Basin in South America in 1907 and mapped a number of previously unknown rivers in the north-western area. He led seven expeditions in all, the last one in 1924-1925.
On seven expeditions to South America, he explored over 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 km2) of the Amazon Basin. On one trip (1924–25), he ascended the Orinoco River to its headwaters, traversed the natural Casiquiare canal, and descended the Rio Branco to the Amazon at Manaus. It was the first expedition to use aerial photography and shortwave radio for mapping.
On a 1916 expedition, one of his colleagues, Dr. William Thomas Councilman, wrote a report and book on the expedition which was published in 1918.
He surveyed and mapped half a million square miles of unexplored territory, established hospitals for Indians of Brazil and conducted research in tropical diseases. His scientific work won him honors from Italy, England, France and Spain. Dr. Rice also conducted expeditions in Alaska and Hudson Bay.
In 1929, Rice founded the Institute of Geographical Exploration (IGE) at Harvard University and he and his wife, Eleanor Elkins Rice, provided a considerable endowment to maintain the institute.
While under the directorship of Rice, the Institute for Geographical Exploration became a major center for the science of photogrammetry or map making from aerial photography. Rice's professional accomplishments also included: Curator of the South American Section of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; Lecturer in Diseases of Tropical South America at Harvard Medical School; and Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History.
Upon the closing of IGE in 1952, Rice retired to Miramar, his wife's family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where he died in 1956.