George Washington Vanderbilt III

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George Washington Vanderbilt III (1914 – June 24, 1961) was a yachtsman and a scientific explorer who was a member of the prominent United States Vanderbilt family.

Early life[edit]

Born in New York City, he was the son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and his second wife, Margaret Emerson. He was named in honor of his great-great-uncle George Washington Vanderbilt and his great-uncle George Washington Vanderbilt II. He was the brother of Alfred G. Vanderbilt II and a half-brother to William Henry Vanderbilt III from his father's first marriage. His father perished in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915 when George was only a year old.

His mother remarried two more times and had a daughter, Gloria Baker. Vanderbilt's maternal grandfather, Isaac E. Emerson, was a very wealthy businessman who made a fortune in a variety of business ventures including patent medicines, the most notable of which was Bromo-Seltzer. A sailing enthusiast, Emerson instilled a love for the sport in young George from an early age and as an adult, he used his sailing skills and wealth for scientific research.

Scientific research[edit]

In 1936 and 1937 George Vanderbilt sponsored a renewal of auto races for the Vanderbilt Cup but most important to him was a scholarly interest in the study of marine life. He owned several yachts and used them to conduct scientific expeditions all over the globe. His voyages conducted important research in expeditions to Africa in 1934 and aboard the schooner Cressida, he made an ocean journey in 1937 to the South Pacific (visiting many islands with a wide geographic range) that carried out a systematic study of more than 10,000 fish specimens (434 species in 210 genera).

His fifth major expedition was on the schooner Pioneer in 1941 to the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, Panama, Galapagos Archipelago and Mexican Pacific Islands.

Like his two brothers, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was promoted to lieutenant on May 1, 1943.

He established the George Vanderbilt Foundation for scientific research but outside academic circles, his important work has mostly been overshadowed by the lavish lifestyles and the Vanderbilt mansions of some of the other members of the Vanderbilt family.

Personal life[edit]

In 1946, George Vanderbilt married Anita Zabala, a descendant of one of California's first Spanish families and the former wife of California sportsman Lindsay C. Howard. They divorced in 1958 after nearly twelve years of marriage. [1]

On June 24, 1961, George Washington Vanderbilt III apparently committed suicide by leaping from his 10th floor suite at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, California.[1] His wife said he was despondent over unspecified business setbacks. Investigators found large amounts of alcohol in his blood stream.

His former yacht, the Pioneer, is now the Yankee Clipper, which sails with passengers in the Caribbean for Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.


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