Polar Hayes: The Life and Contributions of Isaac Israel Hayes, M.D. (American Philosophical Society Memoir 262, ISBN: 9780871692627)

July 7, 2010 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

Polar Hayes: The Life and Contributions of Isaac Israel Hayes, M.D.
(American Philosophical Society Memoir, ISBN: 9780871692627)
by Douglas W. Wamsley (Hardcover, 547 pages, 2009, $75.00)

Polar Hayes
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book, which draws upon Hayes family papers, the little viewed diaries from Hayes’s own expeditions, as well as other unpublished primary sources, the story emerges of a remarkable but forgotten explorer, writer, politician, and humanitarian who epitomized the rugged and restless spirit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. Illustrations.

“Polar Hayes” has been nominated for the 2010 William Mills Prize [PDF], which honors the best Arctic or Antarctic nonfiction books published throughout the world, according to the Polar Libraries Bulletin.

“All aspects of Hayes’ life are packaged in a marvelously researched book that effectively uses valuable primary source material, some of it newly discovered,” writes Hal Vogel in Arctic Magazine (December 2009) [PDF]. “Wamsley’s thorough knowledge of his subject and environment can often be seen when he refers to collateral polar events and personalities that were influenced by Hayes.

“His descriptions of the Kane expedition from the perspective of Dr. Hayes are especially noteworthy. They alone make a worthwhile read. Dr. I.I. Hayes lacked a biography, but deserved one. Now he has one that deserves its place among our best polar biographical literature.”

“Lawyer and independent scholar Wamsley has written and lectured extensively on 19th-century Arctic exploration and explorers,” writes Book News in a review. “Here he narrates how Hayes (1832-81), a Quaker physician from rural Pennsylvania, got a taste of Arctic exploration early then became a leading advocate of it as a means of advancing science and geography. Overcoming public apathy, he organized and led the first privately funded American expedition to find the North Pole, thus initiating the modern pole race.”

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American Photographic Patents 1840-1880: The Daguerreotype and Wet Plate Era (ISBN: 1887694218) Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes (American Philosophical Society Memoir 259, ISBN: 0871692597)

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