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He didn’t find the Open Polar Sea he was looking for—and probably overestimated how far North he actually managed to get—but the Arctic discoveries of Isaac Israel Hayes M1853 helped set the course for later explorers. And that was just the first of his several careers.


For a short time in the mid-19th century, a Penn Medical School diploma doubled as a credential for Arctic exploration. In 1853, Elisha Kent Kane M1842 led an expedition to Greenland and beyond on a search for a missing British explorer [“Explorer in a Hurry,” Mar|Apr 2008]. In 1860, Kane’s former medical officer, Isaac Israel Hayes M1853, mounted an Arctic expedition of his own, with the main goal of discovering the rumored ice-free sea that was supposed to ease the way straight to the North Pole.

Despite failing to find his man, Kane returned a hero, embellished his fame by writing a bestselling book about his exploits, and triggered a nationwide binge of mourning when he died of a heart ailment in 1857, at age 37. Though Hayes made less of a splash, he set the course for subsequent Arctic explorers. He went on to run a hospital during the Civil War, to earn a living by lecturing and writing, and to serve multiple terms as a member of the New York State Assembly.

Doctor, explorer, CEO, public speaker, author, legislator—Isaac Hayes excelled in a remarkable number of roles. He deserves to be better known.

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FEATURE: Pointing the Way to the Pole By Dennis Drabelle
©2011 The Pennsylvania Gazette



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  ©2011 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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