George Finch (chemist)

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George Finch
George Ingle Finch.jpg
Native name
George Ingle Finch
Born(1888-08-04)4 August 1888
Died22 November 1970(1970-11-22) (aged 82)
Alma materUniversity of Geneva
Known forBritish Mount Everest Expedition 1922
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society[1]
Hughes Medal (1944)
Scientific career
FieldsChemical physics
InstitutionsImperial College London

George Ingle Finch MBE FRS[1] (4 August 1888 – 22 November 1970) was an Australian chemist and mountaineer. He was the first person known to climb to a height exceeding 8,000 metres.[2][3][4]

Education and military service[edit]

He was born in Australia but educated in German-speaking Switzerland and studied physical sciences at University of Geneva.[5]

During the First World War, he served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1918 New Year Honours for services in connection with the War in France, Egypt and Salonika.[6]


A member of the second British expedition under General Charles Granville Bruce to Mount Everest, on 23 May 1922 Finch and Captain Geoffrey Bruce reached an elevation of 27,300 feet (8,321 m) on the north ridge before retreating.[7] Finch fell out with the Everest Committee after 1922, but his pioneering work on oxygen, which he pursued with messianic zeal, remained crucial to future expeditions. In the Alps, Finch was on the first ascent of the North Face Diagonal or "Finch Route" on the Dent d'Hérens, which he climbed with T. G. B. Forster and R. Peto on 2 August 1923. Finch was also a keen skier and was a founding members of the Alpine Ski Club in 1908. He was a lifelong advocate and supporter of the Alpine Club and would later become its president.

Between 1936 and 1952 he held the position of Professor of Applied Physical Chemistry at Imperial College London.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society[1] in 1938. His candidacy citation read

"Distinguished for his knowledge of Chemical Physics and Electrochemistry, and particularly for his researches upon the electrical conditions and structure of catalytic surfaces, the mechanism of ignition and combustion in electrical discharges, and upon electron diffraction and its applications to the study of surface structure. His outstanding skill in the design of instruments and experimental methods has enabled him greatly to increase the accuracy of measurements in connection with electron diffraction and cathode-ray oscillography. The result of his researches have been published in some 50 papers, including many in the Society's Proceedings."[8]

Finch was awarded their Hughes Medal in 1944. He was president of the Physical Society from 1947 to 1949.

Personal life[edit]

Finch was first married to Alicia "Betty" Fisher, from London. By the time he returned from the front in 1917, she had given birth to a son from a relationship with another man, Wentworth "Jock" Campbell, an Indian Army officer. That boy was the future Oscar-winning film actor Peter Finch. He separated the infant from his mother, and had his relatives raise him as his own son, even though he was not the biological father. Peter did not see his parents again until he returned to Britain and found fame in his thirties. He remained close to his mother and met both George Finch and his biological father briefly.[9] George divorced Betty when Peter was two years old. Betty and Jock Campbell married in 1922 and had a daughter, while George married Gladys May, a nurse, after she became pregnant with their son Bryan. George left her and the boy soon after the birth, but supported Bryan financially.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Blackman, M. (1972). "George Ingle Finch 1888-1970". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 18: 222. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1972.0007.
  2. ^ Blakeney, T. S. (March 1971). "Obituary: George Ingle Finch". The Geographical Journal. 137 (1): 136. JSTOR 1795428.
  3. ^ Peter Osborne (2004). "Finch, George Ingle". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33130.
  4. ^ McIntosh, S. E. (2009). "George Ingle Finch's The Struggle for Everest". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 20 (3): 303–303. doi:10.1580/09-WEME-BK-343.1.
  5. ^ Wainwright, Robert (2016). The Maverick Mountaineer. Allen&Unwin. ISBN 978 1 76011 192 2.
  6. ^ "No. 30576". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 March 1918. p. 3289.
  7. ^ Capt. C. Geoffrey Bruce
  8. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". London: The Royal Society. Retrieved 14 December 2010.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Finch, Frederick George Peter Ingle (1916–1977)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition. Retrieved 27 July 2008.
  10. ^ Robert Wainwright, George Finch: Everest's Australian pioneer, The Australian, 23 May 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2016