Cook, Frederick Albert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Cook, Frederick Albert

Frederick Albert Cook, 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. Peary 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 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 Mt. McKinley 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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