American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

William Farnsworth Loomis, 1914-1973

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1974



Dr. William Farnsworth Loomis—“Farnie”—was not an outstanding mountaineer, but his life was varied and rich and—like the subject of E. A. Robinson’s poem—he “fluttered pulses when he walked.” After a successful career as a stockbroker, his father had established a unique investigative laboratory in Tuxedo, N.Y., where Farnie probably drew his first inspirations in science. He graduated from Harvard College, took his medical degree at Cornell, and then set up his own research laboratory in Connecticut, where for years he studied the ultimate causes of cancer, using tiny plant-animals as subjects. He moved to Brandeis for further training in chemistry, later becoming associate professor, and while there published (among many other papers) an unusual epidemiologic study of the distribution of rickets. Unsatisfied as always, he then took up psychiatry, and wrote a challenging book The GodA Within which probed unexplored regions of the human spirit. This was a logical extension of an earlier, unpublished work Of Maps and Men. I first knew him well when four brash young Americans decided to attack Kangchen- junga via the terrible Bavarian ridge.… We asked Farnie to shop for us in England where fortunately he met some of the all-time greats in Himalayan climbing who gently shifted our attention to then unknown Nanda Devi, and in 1936 Odell, Tilman, Lloyd and Graham Brown joined us to climb that beautiful 25,645-foot peak after what was surely one of the happiest and most satisfying of expeditions. Farnie’s experience in Asia led him logically into the OSS under “Wild Bill” Donovan, but he seldom spoke of his adventure behind the Japanese lines in China, nor of his work with the famous Count Ilya Tolstoi. He followed Tolstoi later into enthusiasm for Korzybski’s new science of Semantics, which must later have influenced his thinking in psychiatry. Though climbing was not a major part of his life, he did it—like everything else—to the hilt. Few of his friends suspected how like Richard Cory he was, but then, anyone as unusual and non-conforming as Farnie is always vulnerable.

Charles S. Houston

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