Thomas Charles Poulter (1897 - 1978)


B.S., Physics, Iowa Wesleyan College
Ph.D., Physics, University of Chicago - Epoxy Acids from Oleic and Elaidic Acids


1937 - 1948
Scientific Director, Armour Research Institute
Research Professor of Physics, Armour Institute of Technology


Thomas 'Doc" Poulter completed his education at Iowa Wesleyan College, where he because Professor of physics in 1935. While at Iowa Wesleyan, Poulter hired James van Allen as a student to work on preparing seismic and magnetic equipment for the Antarctic Expedition.

Poulter joined the Armour Research Institute in 1937, after his first Antarctic expedition to the South Pole. His research focused on seismology and Geophysics. He was second in command on the Second Byrd Antarctic Mission to the South Pole. The Poulter Glacier was named after him during this mission. He was also credited with rescuing Admiral Byrd from carbon monoxide poisoning.

While at Armounr Institute, he developed the Antarctic Snow Cruiser for use in his second expedition with Admiral Byrd.[1,2] The device generally failed to work as was hoped, due to low friction between the tread-less tires and the snow. The only way it would traverse the snow and ice was in reverse. It was eventually abandoned in Antarctica.

In 1948 Dr. Poulter joined the Stanford Research Institute. There he performed research relating to explosives, weather, and Biosonar. After visiting the Elephant Seal colony at Ano Nuevo Island off the coast of California, he became interested in seals. He began studying the seals at the Island in 1962 and was instrumental in having the island declared as a biological preserve in 1967. Poulter Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute is named after him. Thomas Poulter was awarded 2 Congressional Medals of Honor.

Notable Publications


[1] A listing of the entire IIT Collection on the Snow Cruiser
[2] Project 1-69, Armour Institute of Technology Research Foundation.