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Alexander H Rice, Jr

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Nationality  American
Role  Geologist
Institutions  Harvard University
Education  Harvard University

Alma mater  Harvard University
Fields  Geography
Name  Alexander Rice,
Awards  Patron's Gold Medal
Alexander H. Rice, Jr. httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Born  August 2, 1875 Boston, Massachusetts (1875-08-02)
Known for  aerial mapping and Amazon River exploration
Notable awards  Commandeur de la Legion d'honneur
Died  July 21, 1956, Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Spouse  Eleanor Elkins Widener (1915)
Residence  Newport, Rhode Island, United States

Alexander Hamilton Rice Jr. (August 29, 1875 – July 21, 1956) was an American physician, geographer, geologist and explorer especially noted for his expeditions to the Amazon Basin. He was professor of geography at Harvard University from 1929 to 1952, and was the founder and director of the Harvard Institute of Geographical Exploration.


Early life and military service

Rice's grandfather was former Boston mayor, Massachusetts governor and US Congressman Alexander Hamilton Rice. After attending the Noble and Greenough School he earned an A.B. from Harvard College (1898) and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School (1904). In 1915, he married widowed RMS Titanic survivor Eleanor Elkins Widener.

In 1914–1915 he volunteered for the Paris surgical staff of the Ambulance Américain, a group of American civilian doctors serving in Europe prior to the United States' entry into World War I. From 1915 to 1917 he directed the Hôpital 72, Société de Secours aux Blessés Militaires, a French charity hospital also in Paris.

On the United States' 1917 entry into the war, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, directing the 2nd Naval District Training School for Reserve Officers at Newport, Rhode Island, where he served until 1919. In 1919, he was awarded the Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur for his service to the people of France.

In 1922 Rice was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for US Congress from the Massachusetts 12th Congressional District.

Exploration and academic career

As a geographer and explorer Rice specialized in rivers. On seven expeditions, beginning in 1907, he explored 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 km2) of the Amazon Basin, mapping a number of previously unknown rivers in the northwestern area of the Amazon Basin reaching into Colombia and Venezuela.

After his 1915 marriage, his socialite wife accompanied him on several expeditions to South America which were chronicled in the geographic literature and followed closely by the popular press. A 1916 expedition was the subject of a 1918 book by a colleague, William Thomas Councilman. During a 1920 trip, it was reported that "the party warded off an attack by savages and killed two cannibals"‍—‌​"scantily clad ... very ferocious and of large stature". (A subsequent headline read: "Explorer Rice Denies That He Was Eaten By Cannibals". In 1913, the Harvard College Class of 1898 Quindecennial Report had noted that, "An interesting feature of [Rice's] work in South America is frequent reports to the effect that he has been eaten by cannibals or has been a victim of the snakes which are said to be laying in wait for him all the time.")

In 1924–1925 during one of his most important expeditions from the standpoint of scientific discovery, he ascended the Orinoco River to its headwaters, traversed the natural Casiquiare canal, and descended the Rio Branco to the Amazon at Manaus. This was the first expedition to use aerial photography and shortwave radio for mapping. He also established hospitals for Indians in Brazil, researched tropical diseases, and conducted expeditions in Alaska and Hudson Bay.

His explorations of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers won him honors which included: Gold Medalist, Geographical Society of Philadelphia; Gold Medalist, Société Royale de Géographie d'Anvers; and Gold Medalist, Harvard Travelers Club. He led his last expedition in 1924–1925.

In 1929 Rice founded Harvard's Institute of Geographical Exploration, to which he and his wife provided a considerable endowment, and which under Rice's directorship became an important center for the science of photogrammetry. Rice's other positions included Curatorship of the South American Section of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; Lecturer in Diseases of Tropical South America at Harvard Medical School; and Trustee of the American Museum of Natural History. He belonged to the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars, and the Society of the Cincinnati.

When the Institute closed in 1952, Rice retired to Miramar, his wife's family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where he died in 1956.


Rice was a descendant of Edmund Rice, an English immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony, as follows:

  • Alexander Hamilton Rice Jr., son of
  • John Hamilton Rice (1849–1899), son of
  • Alexander Hamilton Rice (1818–1895), son of
  • Thomas Rice (1782 – c. 1859), son of
  • John Rice (1751–1808), son of
  • Elijah Rice (b. 1728), son of
  • William Rice (c. 1700 – 1769), son of
  • Edmund Rice (1653–1719), son of
  • Edward Rice (1622–1712), son of
  • Edmund Rice (1594–1663)
  • References

    Alexander H. Rice Jr. Wikipedia