Cook, Frederick Albert

Cook, Frederick Albert,

1865–1940, American explorer and physician, b. Sullivan co., N.Y. Cook early became interested in the arctic and accompanied the expedition of Robert E. PearyPeary, Robert Edwin
, 1856–1920, American arctic explorer, b. Cresson, Pa. In 1881 he entered the U.S. navy as a civil engineer and for several years served in Nicaragua, where he was engaged in making surveys for the Nicaragua Canal.
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 in 1891–92 as surgeon. Later he accompanied the Belgian expedition (1897–99) to Antarctica and made other polar voyages. In 1906, after unsuccessful attempts to reach the summit of DenaliDenali,
formerly Mount McKinley,
peak, 20,310 ft (6,190 m) high, S central Alaska, in the Alaska Range; highest point in North America. Permanent snowfields cover more than half the mountain and feed numerous glaciers.
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 (Mt. McKinley), Cook remained behind when most of the party returned. He later announced that he and a companion had successfully scaled the peak; this assertion was afterward proved to be fraudulent. In 1907 he set out with an expedition for the arctic, and on Sept. 1, 1909, he emerged into civilization again, claiming that he had reached the North Pole in Apr., 1908. A few days later Peary announced that he had reached the pole in Apr., 1909, and accused Cook of fraud. The argument was sensational. Cook was deprived of some of the honors that had been accorded him and disappeared from the public eye for a time. Later he was involved in an oil-field promotion scheme in Texas and served five years (1925–30) of a 14-year sentence for having used the mails to defraud. To the end of his life, however, and in the face of a generally hostile public, Cook fought for vindication of his polar and Denali claims and even filed several libel suits. He was supported by some well-known explorers as well as some ardent admirers. Cook defended his claims in My Attainment of the Pole (1911) and Return from the Pole (ed. by F. J. Pohl, 1951).


See T. Wright, The Big Nail (1970); H. Eames, Winner Lose All (1973); R. M. Bryce Cook and Peary: The Polar Controversy Resolved (1997).

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Cook, Frederick Albert

(1865–1940) explorer, physician; born in Calicoon Depot, N.Y. He was the surgeon and ethnologist on Robert E. Peary's Greenland expedition (1891–92) and he returned to Greenland in 1893, 1894, 1897, and 1901–02. He claimed to have made the first ascent of Mount McKinley (1906) and to have reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908 (one year before Robert E. Peary). An investigative committee discredited both of these claims. He led an expedition around the world (1915–16), founded a Texas oil company, and was imprisoned (1925–29) for mail fraud. He received an unconditional pardon from President Franklin D. Roosevelt just before his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.