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Griffith Pugh conducting high-altitude physiological experiments. © Royal Geographical Society.
Public history of science lecture by Harriet Tuckey
The conquest of Everest by a British team in 1953 has always been celebrated as a triumph of heroic leadership, team work and courageous climbing, but the vital role that scientific innovation played in the success of the expedition has never been widely acknowledged. Now, sixty years after the event, Harriet Tuckey tells the story of her father Dr Griffith Pugh, a physiologist and expert on extreme conditions, who made the first ascent possible by solving the key physiological problems of climbing at very high altitudes. In 1952, funded by the Royal Society, Griffith Pugh carried out pioneering physiological research on Cho Oyu, a mountain on the Nepal-Tibet border. On his return he devised a blueprint for success in 1953 – covering acclimatisation, diet and hydration and crucially the policy for the use of oxygen. In addition he designed or modified much of the clothing and protective equipment used on the expedition.
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