Physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition

Made:
1950-1953 in unknown place

Physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition, 1953

What does it take to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain? The 1953 attempt was informed by and involved an unprecedented amount of scientific research. Preparations for the 1953 expedition began in 1952 with a reconnaissance and research trip to Mount Cho Oyu, about 20km west of Everest and the world’s sixth highest mountain. During both the 1952 and 1953 trips, physiologist Dr Griffith Pugh carried out ground-breaking research into what it takes to push the human body to the limits of its endurance. Pugh climbed with the climbing teams to several of the high-altitude camps because he believed that it was not possible to replicate that environment in a laboratory.

By the 1950s, there had been several attempts to summit Everest and some climbers had got very close, but none had made it. The pioneering research of Dr Griffith Pugh was a key factor in the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 1953. Pugh’s background made him uniquely suited to this work. He was a practising doctor, but also a world class skier. He was selected to represent Great Britain in skiing at the 1936 Winter Olympics, but he was unable to attend due to injury. He also trained soldiers at the School of Mountain Warfare in Lebanon during the Second World War. It was here that Pugh began to research the impact of high altitude and extreme conditions on the body, leading to his work on Everest. Pugh took part in the expedition to Everest in 1953 and the preparatory expedition in the Himalayas in 1952, believing that laboratory research could not accurately recreate the experience of being in these extreme environments. His work established principles about acclimatising to altitude, food and water consumption during climbs, and oxygen usage that continued to be used by climbers for decades.

Details

Category:
Laboratory Medicine
Object Number:
1981-1570
Materials:
textile, feather, metal (unknown), rubber (unidentified), fibreglass, glass and plastic (unidentified)
Measurements:
overall (oxygen mask): 108 mm x 140 mm x 100 mm,
overall (trousers): 1060 mm x 400 mm x 95 mm,
overall (gas analyser): 409 mm x 435 mm x 137 mm,
overall (Douglas bag): 270 mm x 490 mm x 165 mm,
type:
experimental apparatus
credit:
Simon Pugh

Parts

Duvet Trousers.

Duvet Trousers.

Duvet trousers, down-filled cotton, by Hans Behrmann, Zurich, 1949-1953 part of the physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition, 1953


What does it take to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain? Mount Everest is an incredibly harsh environment. At the summit temperatures can drop as low as -30°C during the summer climbing season and even at the middle camps between 6,000 and 7,000m temperatures in the summer range from -15°C to -5°C. Physiologist Dr Griffith Pugh oversaw much of the specialist clothing and equipment that was supplied for the 1953 Everest expedition. During the Second World War and in the subsequent years there was much scientific research into and improvement of cold weather clothing. The design of these down trousers was inspired by the equipment used by the Swiss expedition to Everest in 1952, which failed to reach the summit but did set a record for the highest climb. Pugh believed that keeping climbers comfortable and warm was essential to maintain their condition and form for the intense work required.

By the 1950s, there had been several attempts to summit Everest and some climbers had got very close, but none had made it. The pioneering research of Dr Griffith Pugh was a key factor in the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 1953. Pugh’s background made him uniquely suited to this work. He was a practising doctor, but also a world class skier. He was selected to represent Great Britain in skiing at the 1936 Winter Olympics, but he was unable to attend due to injury. He also trained soldiers at the School of Mountain Warfare in Lebanon during the Second World War. It was here that Pugh began to research the impact of high altitude and extreme conditions on the body, leading to his work on Everest. Pugh took part in the expedition to Everest in 1953 and the preparatory expedition in the Himalayas in 1952, believing that laboratory research could not accurately recreate the experience of being in these extreme environments. His work established principles about acclimatising to altitude, food and water consumption during climbs, and oxygen usage that continued to be used by climbers for decades.

Materials:
cotton (textile) and feather
Object Number:
1981-1570 Pt1
type:
trousers
Douglas bag for collecting expired air

Douglas bag for collecting expired air

Douglas bag for collecting expired air, English, with forceps by Weiss, London, 1950-1953 part of the physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition, 1953


What does it take to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain? As altitude increases atmospheric pressure decreases. This means that there is less oxygen available – at the summit of Everest atmospheric pressure is about one third of the pressure at sea level. Equipment like this was used by Dr Griffith Pugh to measure the air climbers were breathing out to research the effects of altitude and acclimatisation.

The use and benefit of supplementary oxygen when climbing Everest had been the subject of much debate in the pre-war Everest expeditions. All had taken supplementary oxygen and some climbers had found some benefit from it, but the equipment was heavy and bulky which limited its effectiveness. Pugh found that a much higher flow rate was needed than had been used previously. He recommended that climbers at high altitude doing heavy work should have oxygen at a flow rate of 4l per minute compared to the rate of around 2l per minute used previously. Using 4l per minute meant that the supplementary oxygen could offset the weight of the oxygen equipment and provide an additional benefit to the climber. Low levels of oxygen in the blood have serious consequences for not only the physical health of climbers, but also their decision making and critical thinking skills. It’s notable that following Pugh’s oxygen recommendations, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were able to make complex decisions even at higher altitudes than ever experienced before.

By the 1950s, there had been several attempts to summit Everest and some climbers had got very close, but none had made it. The pioneering research of Dr Griffith Pugh was a key factor in the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 1953. Pugh’s background made him uniquely suited to this work. He was a practising doctor, but also a world class skier. He was selected to represent Great Britain in skiing at the 1936 Winter Olympics, but he was unable to attend due to injury. He also trained soldiers at the School of Mountain Warfare in Lebanon during the Second World War. It was here that Pugh began to research the impact of high altitude and extreme conditions on the body, leading to his work on Everest. Pugh took part in the expedition to Everest in 1953 and the preparatory expedition in the Himalayas in 1952, believing that laboratory research could not accurately recreate the experience of being in these extreme environments. His work established principles about acclimatising to altitude, food and water consumption during climbs, and oxygen usage that continued to be used by climbers for decades.

Materials:
steel (nickel plated) , cotton , rubber and canvas
Object Number:
1981-1570 Pt2
type:
douglas bags
Micro-Scholander gas analysis apparatus in fibreglass case

Micro-Scholander gas analysis apparatus in fibreglass case

Micro-Scholander gas analysis apparatus in fibreglass case, English, 1950-1953 part of the physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition, 1953


What does it take to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain? As altitude increases atmospheric pressure decreases. This means that there is less oxygen available – at the summit of Everest atmospheric pressure is about one third of the pressure at sea level. Equipment like this was used by Dr Griffith Pugh to measure the air climbers were breathing out to research the effects of altitude and acclimatisation.

The use and benefit of supplementary oxygen when climbing Everest had been the subject of much debate in the pre-war Everest expeditions. All had taken supplementary oxygen and some climbers had found some benefit from it, but the equipment was heavy and bulky which limited its effectiveness. Pugh found that a much higher flow rate was needed than had been used previously. He recommended that climbers at high altitude doing heavy work should have oxygen at a flow rate of 4l per minute compared to the rate of around 2l per minute used previously. Using 4l per minute meant that the supplementary oxygen could offset the weight of the oxygen equipment and provide an additional benefit to the climber. Low levels of oxygen in the blood have serious consequences for not only the physical health of climbers, but also their decision making and critical thinking skills. It’s notable that following Pugh’s oxygen recommendations, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were able to make complex decisions even at higher altitudes than ever experienced before.

By the 1950s, there had been several attempts to summit Everest and some climbers had got very close, but none had made it. The pioneering research of Dr Griffith Pugh was a key factor in the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 1953. Pugh’s background made him uniquely suited to this work. He was a practising doctor, but also a world class skier. He was selected to represent Great Britain in skiing at the 1936 Winter Olympics, but he was unable to attend due to injury. He also trained soldiers at the School of Mountain Warfare in Lebanon during the Second World War. It was here that Pugh began to research the impact of high altitude and extreme conditions on the body, leading to his work on Everest. Pugh took part in the expedition to Everest in 1953 and the preparatory expedition in the Himalayas in 1952, believing that laboratory research could not accurately recreate the experience of being in these extreme environments. His work established principles about acclimatising to altitude, food and water consumption during climbs, and oxygen usage that continued to be used by climbers for decades.

Oxygen mask (second example)

Oxygen mask (second example)

Oxygen mask (second example), English military issue, England, 1948-1953 part of the physiological apparatus used by Dr. Griffith Pugh during the Everest expedition, 1953


What does it take to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain? As altitude increases atmospheric pressure decreases. This means that there is less oxygen available – at the summit of Everest atmospheric pressure is about one third of the pressure at sea level.

The use and benefit of supplementary oxygen when climbing Everest had been the subject of much debate in the pre-war Everest expeditions. All had taken supplementary oxygen and some climbers had found some benefit from it, but the equipment was heavy and bulky which limited its effectiveness. Dr Griffith Pugh found that a much higher flow rate was needed than had been used previously. He recommended that climbers at high altitude doing heavy work should have oxygen at a flow rate of 4l per minute compared to the rate of around 2l per minute used previously. Using 4l per minute meant that the supplementary oxygen could offset the weight of the oxygen equipment and provide an additional benefit to the climber. Low levels of oxygen in the blood have serious consequences for not only the physical health of climbers, but also their decision making and critical thinking skills. It’s notable that following Pugh’s oxygen recommendations, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were able to make complex decisions even at higher altitudes than ever experienced before.

By the 1950s, there had been several attempts to summit Everest and some climbers had got very close, but none had made it. The pioneering research of Dr Griffith Pugh was a key factor in the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb in 1953. Pugh’s background made him uniquely suited to this work. He was a practising doctor, but also a world class skier. He was selected to represent Great Britain in skiing at the 1936 Winter Olympics, but he was unable to attend due to injury. He also trained soldiers at the School of Mountain Warfare in Lebanon during the Second World War. It was here that Pugh began to research the impact of high altitude and extreme conditions on the body, leading to his work on Everest. Pugh took part in the expedition to Everest in 1953 and the preparatory expedition in the Himalayas in 1952, believing that laboratory research could not accurately recreate the experience of being in these extreme environments. His work established principles about acclimatising to altitude, food and water consumption during climbs, and oxygen usage that continued to be used by climbers for decades.