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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 May;94(5):1702-13.

George I. Finch and his pioneering use of oxygen for climbing at extreme altitudes.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0623.


George Ingle Finch (1888-1970) was the first person to prove the great value of supplementary oxygen for climbing at extreme altitudes. He did this during the 1922 Everest expedition when he and his companion, Geoffrey Bruce, reached an altitude of 8,320 m, higher than any human had climbed before. Finch was well qualified to develop the oxygen equipment because he was an eminent physical chemist. Many of the features of the 1922 design are still used in modern oxygen equipment. Finch also demonstrated an extraordinary tolerance to severe acute hypoxia in a low-pressure chamber experiment. Remarkably, despite Finch's desire to participate in the first three Everest expeditions in 1921-1924, he was only allowed to be a member of one. His rejection from the 1921 expedition was based on medical reports that were apparently politically biased. Then, following his record ascent in 1922, he was refused participation in the 1924 expedition for complex reasons related to his Australian origin, his forthright and unconventional views, and the fact that some people in the climbing establishment in Britain saw Finch as an undesirable outsider.

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