University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Sir Charles Seymour Wright
Sir Charles Seymour Wright. Photo Courtesy of Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

Antarctica’s Intrepid Explorer

U of T grad Charles Seymour Wright was a member of Robert Scott's ill-fated antarctic expedition

January 1912 was the pinnacle of Captain Robert Scott’s South Pole expedition: he and four companions arrived at their destination by sled (although they soon discovered the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them by a month). What few Canadians know is that one of the expedition members – Sir Charles Seymour Wright – was a Canadian and a U of T grad.

Wright earned a degree in math and physics from U of T in 1908. While doing postgrad work in physics at Cambridge University, he applied for a position on Scott’s ill-fated 1910–13 expedition. Hired as the glaciologist, Wright explored the McMurdo Sound Dry Valleys – snow- and glacier-free areas that are so unusual that NASA uses them to simulate conditions on Mars.

While mapping one region of the Dry Valleys (which in 1959 would be named Wright Valley), Wright named three surrounding mountains after U of T president Robert Falconer, Prof. A.P. Coleman of geology and Prof. John McLennan of physics.

When it became obvious that Scott had met with misfortune, Wright became the search party’s navigator. On Nov. 12, 1912, he located the frozen remains of the polar explorer and two of his companions on their return journey.

Wright went on to an eminent scientific career: Prior to the First World War, he outlined on paper a simple version of today’s Geiger counter, and, during the war, he developed wireless trench communications. In the 1930s Wright directed the team involved in the early development of radar. During the Second World War, he developed technology that detected anti-shipping mines – which led to his knighthood in 1946.
Watch a BBC clip about a collection of photographs and relics from the Robert Scott Antarctic expedition:

Recent Posts

Photo of front campus field and Convocation Hall with flower emoji illustrations floating above

Clearing the Air

U of T wants to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050. It’s enlisting on-campus ingenuity for help

Abstract illustration showing a red-coloured body and face, with small black and white pieces flowing from inside body out of the mouth, and the U.S. Capitol Building dangling on puppet strings from one hand

The Extremism Machine

Online disinformation poses a danger to society. Researchers at U of T’s Citizen Lab are tracking it – and trying to figure out how to stop it

Prof. Mark V. Campbell with a beige background and red lighting

Charting Hip Hop’s Course

Professor Mark V. Campbell grew up during the early years of rap music. Now, he is helping preserve Canadian hip-hop culture for future generations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. 2 Responses to “ Antarctica’s Intrepid Explorer ”

  2. Joseph Frey says:

    Please note that the article on Sir Charles Seymour Wright "Antarctica's Intrepid Explorer", Winter 2012 was written by me and not be U of T Magazine staff. I would appreciate a correction.
    Kind regards,
    Joseph Frey

  3. Scott Anderson says:

    Sorry for the error, Joseph! Correction made.