American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Lawrence Irving Grinnell, 1889-1985

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

LAWRENCE IRVING GRINNELL 1889-1985

Lawrence Grinnell was not perhaps one of our most outstanding climbers, but rather an all-around outdoorsman, who enjoyed mountaineering, mountain hiking and whitewater river running for his personal pleasure and satisfaction. He also liked to share his enjoyment with others as his numerous articles in Appalachia and the American Alpine Journal attest. He developed an early interest in birds and became a professional ornithologist.

Lawrence I. Grinnell was bom in Flushing, New York on June 14, 1889, and was educated at Pomfret School, and Harvard College from which he graduated in 1912. After three years in the publishing business he joined a National Guard cavalry unit, and then, when cavalry was deemed unsuitable for trench warfare, served in a field artillery unit in World War I. Following the end of the war he returned to the publishing business and became editor of a trade journal for some five years until he shifted his attention to the real-estate field. Eventually he established his own firm from which he retired in 1938. He moved to Ithaca, New York to pursue his studies in ornithology, receiving an SM degree in 1943 and a PhD in 1947 from Cornell in that field.

He married Julia Temple in New York City on September 27, 1930 and they had a daughter, Sarah, bom in 1931. With his wife, who was also an avid outdoorswoman (see A.A.J., 1961, page 348), he did a great deal of climbing and whitewater canoeing. The two of them set about ascending all the state high points in the lower forty-eight, a feat about which he wrote in the A.A.J., 1944 on pages 212 to 221.This writer well remembers leading a party, of which he was a member, up Gannett Peak, the highest point in Wyoming, which involved a long day’s climb requiring twice crossing the continental divide by a high pass.

He wrote many articles for Appalachia, both on his climbing and his whitewater canoeing, the latter in an endeavor to popularize the sport in the New York area, starting originally with an article on the Rivers Within 100 Miles of New York, and later covering the rivers of central New York state after his removal to Ithaca. These finally led to the publishing in book form his magnum opus on the subject, Canoeable Waterways of New York.

After receiving his doctorate from Cornell, he became a Research Associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and indulged his love of music by playing the violin in the Cornell University Orchestra and the Ithaca Chamber Orchestra. Many of his later travels were in pursuit of his profession as an ornithologist and included rafting trips on big rivers. Although he has been inactive for the last few years, the Club lost one of its oldest and most interesting members upon his death on December 22, 1985.

Kenneth A. Henderson

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