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Allison, Thomas (bap. 1647, d. in or before 1706), Arctic explorer, was baptized on 6 June 1647 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, the son of Roger Allison and his wife, Elizabeth. He became a freeman in 1668, having served his apprenticeship to Nicolas Allen...

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Atkinson, Edward Leicester (1881–1929), naval medical officer and explorer in Antarctica, was born on 23 November 1881 at Sion Hill, St Vincent, Windward Islands, West Indies, the third of eight children and the second and sole surviving son of Edward Leycester Atkinson, then an accountant at the ...

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Sir George Back (1796–1878) by Maull & Polyblank Howarth-Loomes Collection; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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A. H. Beesly

revised by Andrew Lambert

Back, Sir George (1796–1878), naval officer and explorer, was born on 6 November 1796 at Stockport, Cheshire, the second son of John Back and his wife, Ann. He entered the navy as midshipman of the Arethusa in 1808. He was present at the destruction of the batteries at ...

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Baffin, William (1584?–1621), Arctic explorer, was probably born in London, possibly in 1584. Neither his parents' names nor details of his early life are known. He certainly married, and may have been the William Baffin who married Susan Hodges at St Bride's, Fleet Street...

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Balleny, John (b. c. 1770, d. in or after 1842), merchant navy officer and Antarctic discoverer, was born c.1770 but nothing is known about his early life and education. He may have been a Londoner, brought up in the Newcastle coal trade. From 1798, when he was living in the parish of ...

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Best, George (c. 1555–1584), explorer, was the son of Robert Best and Anne Bowman, married at Merstham in 1548. He learned much about geography from his father who worked as an interpreter for the Muscovy Company in London, having escorted the first Russian ambassador to ...

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Billings, Joseph (1758–1806), explorer and hydrographer in Russia, was born in 1758 at Turnham Green, Middlesex, according to ship musters; parish church registers confirm the birth of Joseph, son of Thomas and Mary Billing, on 6 September 1758. Billings's signed Russian service record, however, gives 1761 as the year of his birth. Other sources indicate that ...

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Binney, Sir (Frederick) George (1900–1972), explorer and blockade runner, was born on 23 September 1900 at Great Bookham, Surrey, the second of two sons of Maximilian Frederick Breffit Binney (1859–1936), vicar of Richmond, Surrey, and his first wife, Emily Blinkhorn, who died when ...

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A. G. E. Jones

revised by Elizabeth Baigent

Biscoe, John (bap. 1794, d. 1843), merchant navy officer and explorer, was baptized in Enfield on 28 June 1794, the third son and youngest child of Thomas Biscoe of Waltham Abbey and his wife, Ann Tibbs. Nothing is known of his early years, but on leaving school he became a clerk. On 11 March 1812 he volunteered for the ...

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Booth, Sir Felix, first baronet (1780–1850), distiller and promoter of Arctic exploration, was born on 3 June 1780, the youngest son of Philip Booth, a distiller of 55 Turnmill Street, Clerkenwell, London, and his wife, Elizabeth Wallis, who had in all three sons and three daughters. ...

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Borough, Stephen (1525–1584), explorer and naval administrator, was born on 25 September 1525 at Borough House, Northam Burrows, Northam, Devon, the elder son of Walter Borough (1494–1548) and Mary Dough; his younger brother was William Borough (d. 1598).

With his uncle, John Borough (d. 1570)...

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Bowers, Henry Robertson [Birdie] (1883–1912), polar explorer, was born at Greenock on 29 July 1883, the youngest of the three children of Alexander Bowers, a naval captain and independent merchantman, and his wife, Emily, née Webb. His father died on the Mergui archipelago, Burma...

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William Speirs Bruce (1867–1921) by unknown photographer reproduced by permission of the Scott Polar Research Institute

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Bruce, William Speirs (1867–1921), polar scientist and explorer, was born at 43 Kensington Gardens Square, Paddington, London, on 1 August 1867. He was the fourth child of a family of eight children and had one younger brother and six sisters. His father, Samuel Noble Bruce MRCS...

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Campbell, Victor Lindsey Arbuthnot (1875–1956), naval officer and Antarctic explorer, was born on 20 August 1875 at 16 Adelaide Crescent, Hove, Sussex, son of Captain Hugh Campbell RN, commander of the royal yacht Victoria and Albert, and his wife, Lucy Eleanor Archer. Educated at ...

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(Verner) Duncan Carse (1913–2004) by Howard Coster, 1955 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Carse, (Verner) Duncan (1913–2004), polar explorer and broadcaster, was born on 28 July 1913 at 35 Castletown Road, Fulham, London, the son of (Andreas) Duncan Carse, artist, and his wife, Florence Marion, née Soames. He was originally named Werner Duncan but this was soon changed to ...

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Frederick Spencer Chapman (1907–1971) by Howard Coster, 1939 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Chapman, Frederick Spencer (1907–1971), explorer and mountaineer, was born on 10 May 1907 at Kensington, London, the younger son and younger child of Frank Spencer Chapman, solicitor, of Oakwood Court, Kensington, and his wife, Winifred Ormond, who died within a month of the birth. She was the daughter of ...