Biathlon sharp shooting in Östersund, Sweden (Foto: Iñigo Mujika)

A few months ago I read Harriet Tuckey’s wonderful book Everest—The First Ascent, reporting on the generally unrecognized contribution made by her father, Dr Griffith Pugh, to the conquest of Mount Everest back in 1953.1 Despite his outstanding scientific achievements over the years, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pugh’s problem-solving applied human physiology approach was regarded “as somewhat low level and unscientific”1(p300) by the scientific establishment.

Undeterred, Pugh had continued his research into the energetics of walking and running, heat stress, the changes the body goes through while exercising for long periods outdoors and many other topics. Athletes, cyclists and skiers regularly trooped to his laboratory for tests and met him at various sports grounds for outdoor trials and he continued to publish highly original academic papers up to his retirement in 1975.1(p301)

It wasn’t practical to study large numbers in the high Himalayas or Antarctica, and Pugh often deliberately chose to study small groups of exceptional people like Channel swimmers and Olympic athletes who were not available in large numbers. His research assistant John Brotherhood remembered him saying of Edholm’s huge projects: “Those people take a scatter gun approach, John, but we use a rifle. We are sharpshooters.”1(p302)

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