Michael Phelps Ward

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 17 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1206

Medical officer and route finder to the 1953 Everest expedition, who became a surgeon in the east end of London and wrote books about high altitude medicine

Michael Ward was a surgeon and high-altitude physiologist, but his most notable achievement was being route finder and medical officer in the team that conquered Everest in 1953. He laid the groundwork for an assault on Everest that would set out from Nepal to the south, which had been a closed country since 1949. Previous attempts had entered from Tibet, which was sealed off after the Chinese invaded in 1950.

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Credit: RGS

Ward developed the idea for this approach to the world's highest mountain while doing his national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had discovered a potential route after finding photographs taken by the unsuccessful expeditions in the 1930s, a map compiled from them, and aerial photographs of Everest's south face, taken by the Royal Air Force. Although the route went through a field of tall and unstable ice cliffs, Ward thought he could see what looked like a more scaleable way to reach the summit. He …

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