Prologue: Selected Articles
Winter 1997, Vol. 29, No. 4
Settling in Port Clyde, Maine, Porter married Alice Marshall on November 27, 1907. Their daughter, Caroline, was born in 1912. He taught architecture for three years at MIT and during World War I worked for the National Bureau of Standards producing prisms and experimenting with the silvering of mirrors. What had begun as a hobby became his profession when he moved from building small telescopes to working on the two-hundred-inch telescope on Mount Palomar, California. He moved to Pasadena in December 1928 to take up his duties as associate in optics and instrument design. His technical drawings and cutaway views of the telescope were highly regarded not only for their precision but also for their beauty. He returned briefly to government work during the Second World War making cutaway drawings of weapons systems for the U.S. Navy.
This portfolio of Russell Williams Porter's artwork concentrates on his polar expeditions, but his reputation was made primarily in the fields of optics and astronomy. In addition to his work on the massive Palomar project, he enthusiastically encouraged and helped amateur telescope makers. In 1970 the International Astronomical Union approved the renaming of moon crater Clavius B after Porter.(12) He received an honorary doctor of science degree from Norwich University in 1946 and on the eve of his death had been notified that Middlebury College planned to bestow the same honor. In his seventy-seven years, Russell Porter was rarely idle. On the very day he died, February 22, 1949, he had been working in his basement on a lens system.(13)
Porter was satisfied that he had lived an active and productive life. Many years after his northern voyages, from his southern California home, he concluded his memoir with these words:
And so these last lines are being penned under sunny skies. I often recall that pledge made when [Duncan] Butland and I were dragging our sleeping bags through the snow frozen feet and fingers fighting for our very lives: "If I ever get out of this, I'm going to the Equator and stay there." And his reply: "Me for New York." Well, I am not on the Equator but considerably nearer to it than the Pole, in fact nearer to it than the rigors of a New England winter. I have no ax to grind with my northern sweetheart now. All things come to those who wait.(14)
1. The Arctic Diary of Russell Williams Porter, ed. Herman Friis (1976), p. 3.
2. Ibid., p. 4.
3. Ibid., p. 19.
4. Ibid., p. 90.
5. "The Arctic Diary of Russell W. Porter," pp. 73, 74, box 6, entry 4, Papers of Russell Williams Porter, 1893-1949 (XRWP) (formerly RG 401 ), National Archives Collection of Donated Materials, National Archives and Records Administration (hereinafter cited as Porter Papers, XRWP, NARA).
6. Arctic Diary of Russell Williams Porter, p. 164. 7. Russell W. Porter, "Sketching under Difficulties or The Trials of an Arctic Artist," box 1, entry 2, Porter Papers, XRWP, NARA.
9. Porter, "The Brilliant Coloring of the North," box 1, entry 2, Porter Papers, XRWP, NARA.
10. Porter, "Sketching under Difficulties," box 1, entry 2, Porter Papers, XRWP, NARA.
11. Diary entry for Mar. 16, 1907, Diary and Journal Notes, box 1, entry 2, Porter Papers, XRWP, NARA.
12. Berton C. Willard, Russell W. Porter: Arctic Explorer, Artist, Telescope Maker (1976), p. 241.
13. Ibid., p. 261.
14. Arctic Diary of Russell Williams Porter, pp. 168-169.
|Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.|