Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Byrd, Richard Evelyn from Philip's Encyclopedia

US polar explorer. A naval officer and aviator, Byrd led five major expeditions to the Antarctic (1928-57), surveying more than 2,200,000sq km (845,000sq mi) of the continent. Among other feats, he claimed to be the first man to fly over both the North Pole (1926) and the South Pole (1929).


Summary Article: Byrd, Richard Evelyn
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1888–1957, American aviator and polar explorer, b. Winchester, Va. He took up aviation in 1917, and after World War I he gained great fame in the air. He commanded the naval air unit with the arctic expedition of D. B. MacMillan in 1925. He and Floyd Bennett reported their historic flight from Spitsbergen to the North Pole and back again in 1926; however, entries from his diary suggest that they may not actually have reached the pole. In 1927 Byrd and three companions made one of the spectacular early flights across the Atlantic. A record of his flights was presented in Skyward (1928). Two years later he led a well-equipped and efficiently organized expedition to Antarctica. Establishing a base at Little America, he discovered the Rockefeller Range and Marie Byrd Land, and late in 1929 he and Bernt Balchen flew to the South Pole and back. The large party gathered much scientific information.

In 1930 Byrd was promoted to rear admiral, and his book Little America was published. His second large expedition was organized in 1933, and headquarters were established once again at Little America. As winter approached, he set up an advance base 123 mi (198 km) closer to the South Pole and stayed there alone for several months making observations. Discovery (1935) and Alone (1938) were records of this fruitful expedition. In 1939–40 he was again in the antarctic, commanding a government expedition, and in 1946–47 he headed the U.S. navy expedition, the largest yet sent to the region (see Antarctica). In 1955, Byrd was placed in command of all U.S. antarctic activities, and in 1955–56 he led his fifth expedition to the region. Due mainly to his efforts, the U.S. navy organized (1955–59) Operation Deep Freeze.

  • See Hoyt, E. P., The Last Explorer (1968).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Byrd, Richard E(velyn) (1888 - 1957)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A naval pilot, he served in World War I and in 1926 began a series of record-breaking flights over the two Poles and the...

Full text Article Byrd, Richard E(velyn)
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

(born Oct. 25, 1888, Winchester, Va., U.S.—died March 11, 1957, Boston, Mass.) U.S. naval officer, aviator, and polar explorer. After serving in Wo

Full text Article The Floyd Bennett
Antarctica: An Encyclopedia

NX4542. Byrd's famous Ford Tri-motor airplane which flew to the South Pole and back on Nov. 28-29, 1929, during ByrdAE 1928-30. The standard 220 hp

See more from Credo