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Although his life's work has been focused primarily on founding Boston's Museum of Science and building it into one of the nation's leading museums, Dr. Washburn is also a noted cartographer, photographer, and leading expert on Mt. Everest and Alaska's m ountains and glaciers. At the end of World War II, he received the USA Distinguished Civilian Award for his services in connection with the development and testing of cold-climate and high-altitude equipment for the U.S. Army Air Forces. He has led numero us Alaskan exploratory expeditions and has published a large-scale map of Mt. McKinley — the result of 15 years of work in Alaska, Boston, and Switzerland.
Dr. Washburn's interest in exploration, photography, and geology has resulted in the creation of several distinguished maps, including the prize-winning map of the Heart of the Grand Canyon; a new and detailed map of New Hampshire's Presidential Range; a nd the first precise, large-scale map of Mt. Everest (an international project involving the United States, China, Nepal, Switzerland, and Germany).
The Museum of Science, which he directed from 1939 to 1980, was the first in the world to unite natural history; physical, applied, and medical science; and a planetarium into a single science center. Now a $60-million edifice on Boston's Charles River E splanade, the museum is visited by more than 1.5 million people each year.
For his achievements, Dr. Washburn has received awards and honors from Harvard University, the National Geographic Society, the Scottish Geographical Society, and many scientific organizations. In 1980, he and his wife, Barbara, became the first recipients of the Alexander Graham Bell Award of the National Geographic Society for out standing contributions to the science of geography.
The American Geological Institute's awards ceremony honors a select group of people who benefit and influence the geoscience profession. The Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Public Understanding of Geology is presented to a person, organization , or institution each year. The contribution may relate to geology as a science or to geology as it affects the economy and environment of modern civilization.
The ceremony also recognizes the recipients of approximately 100 minority scholarships awarded annually by AGI, and pays tribute to the many professional geoscientist volunteers and supporters who contribute to the success of AGI's programs.