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Career of the Cornell Professor Who Braved Dangers of the Artic.


Fatherless, He Worked His Way to an Engineering Professorship with the Aid of a Scholarship.

Special to The New York Times

ELMIRA, N.Y., Sept 8. ? Prof. Ross Gilmore Marvin of Cornell was the first assistant to Commander Peary and chief scientist of the successful North Pole expedition in which his life has been the forfeit. As told in Commander Peary?s dispatch to The New York Times, he was drowned on April 10 forty-five miles north of Cape Columbia while in command of the supporting party. His mother said to-might before news of his death was received here that she hoped and prayed for tidings of her son. She has received none since October last year.

Prof. Marvin was a young man ? less than 30 years old. He was born in Elmira. When he was less than ten year old his father, Edward Marvin, then City Overseer of the Poor, died, leaving a widow and five children, of whom Ross was the youngest. The mother, Mrs. Mary Marvin, still lives in Dewitt Avenue, this city, in the house where Ross was born.

Ross Marvin, after a course in the Elmira High School, worked his way through Cornell University, taking up classics and later a course in civil engineering. He displayed a retentive mind and indomitable courage and spirit. These characteristics also of his maternal grandfather, William McCann, Under Sheriff of Chemung County in the civil war.

In 1863, while Sherriff McCann was in charge of the County Bastile, a jail delivery was planned by Leroy Channing Shearer, a soldier who was held for the killing of two comrades at the Elmira Prison Barracks. McCann, single-handed, fought a score of convicts. Shearer alone escaped after McCann had been left for dead. Subsequently Shearer received a pardon from President Lincoln at the request of A.T. Stewart, the New York merchant, who was reputed to be a relative of his.

Possessing these traits of his ancestor, Ross Marvin succeeded where others would fail. He deprived himself that he might obtain degrees offered at Cornell. His courage and scholarship attracted the attention of the Faculty, and when Commander Peary, in arranging his expedition to the arctic four years ago, asked Cornell to lend him a vigorous man to collect scientific data, there was no hesitancy in selecting Marvin, who was able, ready, and willing for the adventure.

Prof. Marvin and Commander Peary became close friends, and the moment the latter decided upon a final venture to the polar region he invited Prof. Marvin again to become first assistant. Marvin accepted on the spot.

Between the final trip and the one that preceded it Marvin spent his time as an instructor at Mercersburg (Penn.) Academy and as a lecturer at Cornell. He was always modest and unassuming, steadfastly refusing to discuss his polar experience for publication. He always answered that Commander Peary was the "talking man," and he (Prof. Marvin) must show respect for his leadership by remaining silent.

Physically Prof. Marvin was an athletic man of powerful build. He was 5 feet 11 inches in height and weighed 160 pounds.

Before graduation from Cornell he completed the two years course in navigation on board the New York Nautical Schoolship St. Mary?s, and later held a position as Quartermaster there fro one year visiting the seaports of Europe and Northern Africa fro three Summers.

He received the degree of A.B. from Cornell University in June 1905, and immediately upon graduation was chosen as Commander Peary?s secretary and assistant for the expedition of 1905-6. After his return he remained on the instructing staff of Cornell University, and realizing the value to the scientific world of the work being done by arctic expeditions that institution had generously granted him leave of absence to accompany Commander Peary once more, and continue the valuable work already under way.

Prof. Marvin went this time as a representative of Cornell University. He acted as Commander Peary?s secretary and assistant.

Prof Marvin was well remembered last night by members of the Cornell and the Engineers? Clubs of this city. He became known to his classmates rather after achieving prominence through his connection with the Peary expedition than during his college course. They recalled him last night as a quiet, reserved student who studied hard, kept to himself, and suffered from a lip deformity, which made speech troublesome and awkward. But then he and Herbert Berri returned from Peary?s polar expedition two years ago his class was proud of him.

During this previous expedition, his college friends remembered last night, Marvin accompanied Peary in this dash from the expedition?s last encampment or "station" toward the pole. After they had traveled northward in their dog sleds several days they found that they would not have sufficient provisions to continue northward together. So Marvin took barely enough food to keep him on the return trop and Peary continued alone.

When the expedition returned the story of Marvin?s accompanying Peary on the polar dash came out and went the round of the clubs where Marvin?s classmates were and they made much of it.

A story of Prof. Marvin?s early life and his work in the Peary expedition was published in the Cornell Alumni News last year with his photograph. While at Cornell he was a member of the 1903 track team. In a "History of Cornell University" in the possession of Roger Lewis of Cornell Club, his name appears simply as "Ross Gilmore Marvin, 1902 Arts; home, Elmira, NY."

The New York Times

Published: September 9, 1909

Copyright The New York Times