Early Years



Born in Montpelier, Ohio on December 18 to Clyde L. Siple and Fannie Hope Allman Siple


Moved with family to Erie, Pennsylvania in April


Joined Boy Scout Troop No. 24


Earned Eagle Scout rank and joined Sea Scouts, attaining rank of Able Sea Scout. He eventually became “Mate” of the Sea Scout ship Niagara on his 21st birthday


Earned 59 merit badges at time of application in July 1928 for Byrd Antarctic Expedition–this was almost all the badges available at the time; Eventually earned a total of 61 badges


Graduated from Erie’s Central High School in June


Worked as assistant draftsman with Pennsylvania State Highway Department to earn money for college


Freshman year at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania


Selected in a nationwide competition as the Boy Scout to accompany USN Commander Richard E. Byrd on the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition



Exploration Years



Departed from New York Harbor on City of New York on first Byrd Antarctic Expedition on August 25, 1928.
Selected by Byrd to winter over in Antarctica; worked as naturalist, dog team driver, taxidermist, and collected specimens (skins) of seals, penguins, and flying birds for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City


Returned home in June.
Returned to Allegheny College in Meadville, PA in Sept. 1930 completing his last three years in two; graduated in June 1932 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Geology


Lectured on tours, sometimes with Admiral Byrd, to various Councils of Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations


Published Boy Scout with Byrd (Putnam)


Published Exploring at Home (Putnam)


Backpacked on “world” tour to England, Europe (including Russia), Asia Minor, and North Africa


Selected for Byrd Antarctic Expedition II and assisted Byrd with expedition planning and preparation


Byrd Antarctic Expedition II

Served as member of Byrd’s personal staff

Acted as Chief Biologist

Leader of Marie Byrd Land Sledging Party, collecting lichens and mosses and mapping 30,000 square miles of new territory


Identified and cataloged lichens and mosses collected on BAE II.

Discovered 84 new species of lichens and 5 new species of mosses (published material in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, vol.25, April 1938)


Provided hundreds of lectures to scientific and public service groups, colleges, schools, and Boy Scout audiences throughout the United States


Published Scout to Explorer (Putnam)


Enrolled in graduate program at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, specializing in Geography and the study of “the effects of geographical conditions on humans and their possessions,” in September


Married Ruth Ida Johannesmeyer on December 29


Earned Ph.D. in Geography and Climatology from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts; dissertation entitled: Adaptations of the Explorer to the Climate of Antarctica, June


United States Antarctic Service Expedition, Assistant to Admiral Richard E. Byrd

Supervisor of supplies and equipment and responsible for all expedition logistics

Senior geographer

Leader of West Base, Little America III, Bay of Whales

Served as navigator on all Antarctic exploratory flights

Conducted experiments (with Charles Passel) which resulted in devising the formula for the wind chill index which was published in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 89, 1945


Daughter Ann Byrd Siple born June 6



War Years



Employed by U.S. Army as civilian expert on design of cold climate clothing and equipment and as head of research and map projects

Commissioned as captain in U.S. Army, July 1942.


During World War II served as military geographer for U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps

Advised the government and directed research on clothing and environmental protection of troops in all climates

Organized the U.S. Quartermaster Corps’ Climate Research Laboratory and was responsible for the initiation of new design of cold weather gear (especially the cold weather parka and thermal-barrier boot)—for all of which he was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal


Daughter Jane Paulette Siple born October 11


Traveled to Arctic and Greenland for observation and research, as this area was of interest to national defense with the onset of the Cold War


Daughter Mary Cathrin Siple born October 26


Little America IV, Antarctica where he served as Scientific and Polar Advisor and Senior Representative of U.S. War Dept. on a naval operation called United States Navy Antarctic Development Program (AKA Operation High Jump), Dec. 1946 – April 1947


Discharged from military as Lieutenant Colonel, August 1946

Joined U.S. Army General Staff in civilian capacity as military geographer and science adviser for research and development, directing the Army’s environmental
 research program, eventually becoming a specialist in polar, alpine (mountain), desert, and humid (tropical) climates


Received Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award “for distinguished service to boyhood” on May 28



Polar Scientist Years



During Korean War studied winter combat problems and traveled to the battle lines twice to observe the effectiveness of newly designed military clothing


Director of Scientific Projects and Environmental Living for USN Task Force 43, in preparation for Operation Deep Freeze I (which would set up in Antarctica, amongst other programs, McMurdo Station as a support base for the South Pole Station and Little America V as a support base for Byrd Station), all of which was preparation for Deep Freeze II, IGY itself (International Geophysical Year set to run from July 1957 to Dec. 1958–a year in which 67 countries would conduct coordinated research world-wide, including 11 nations manning 40 stations in Antarctica)


Operation Deep Freeze I in Antarctica

Served as Deputy to Admiral Byrd, Director of U.S. Antarctic Programs and Scientific Adviser for Operation Deep Freeze I


Appeared on the cover of Time Magazine (December 31). Corresponding article covered the anticipated first winter that men would experience the six months of complete darkness, from March 22 to Sept. 22, at the South Pole


Deep Freeze II, IGY, and the initial year of operation of the IGY Geographical Pole Station (Amundsen-Scott Station)

Scientific Leader of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during IGY—this was the first group to winter-over at the South Pole. Eighteen men would be the first to experience the six months of the blustery sub-zero sunless South Polar nights


National Geographic Magazine featured articles by Paul Siple about the first IGY South Pole experience (July 1957 and April 1958)



Leadership & Awards Years



Received the prestigious National Geographic Hubbard Medal in March for his leadership role in the heroic and successful first wintering at the South Pole

Medals also awarded from the U.S. Army, U.S. Defense Dept., three other Geographical societies, five of his seven honorary doctorate degrees, and more for this accomplishment


Awarded the “National Distinguished Service Award, Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America,” the highest award for distinguished service, on May 17, 1958


Scientific Adviser, U.S. Army Research Office

Continuing environmental research


Published 90 Degrees South (Putnam)


Awarded American Specialist Grant by State Department for a three-month goodwill trip to Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and India under the Department’s cultural 
exchange program


Served as the first Scientific Attaché to the U.S. Embassies in Canberra, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand


Suffered stroke in Wellington, New Zealand on June 6 and returned home to Virginia in September

Returned to work with Army Research and Development as Special Scientific Adviser in November


Died of a heart attack at his office desk on November 25—would have been 60 on December 18

ADDITIONAL HONORS (partial list)

Seven honorary doctorate degrees

Medals from five geographical societies; three American and two international

Three Congressional Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medals

Legion of Merit, 1946

M.B.E., Order of the British Empire, 1946

Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, Dept. of the Army, December 1957

Distinguished Service Award, Dept. of Defense, April 1958

Superior Honor Award, Dept. of State, December 1966

Paul A. Siple Award, a silver medallion to be awarded biennially for excellence in basic research to a U.S. Army in-house laboratory scientist or a team of researchers

Antarctic landmarks named in his honor: Mount Siple, Siple Island, Siple Ridge, Siple Coast (by New Zealand), and Siple Station