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Subject: George Van Brunt Cochran, Surgeon and Arctic Explorer

New York
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Date Posted: January 11, 2003 3:13:36 EDT

Pic from '90

Doctor George Van Brunt Cochran, an orthopedic surgeon, mountaineer and former president of the Explorers Club in New York, whose specialty was climbing uncharted Arctic mountains, died on Monday in Ossining, N.Y. He was 70.

The cause was complications arising from Parkinson's disease, the Explorers Club said.

In a world fast running out of unknown places to explore, Dr. Cochran concentrated on unmapped mountains, especially those in the Canadian Arctic territories, where he made 14 expeditions. In all, he made 40 first ascents of peaks in Canada, the Himalayas and the Andes.

Dr. Cochran, who lived in Ossining, also extended his interest as an orthopedist in the stresses and strains of bone movement to the stresses and strains of ice movements in the Arctic, designing equipment that measured these tensions and documented the movement of glaciers. His work in this field contributed to the study of global climate change.

Dr. Cochran made his first important expedition in 1957; with three companions, he explored the Homathko Snowfield in the Coast Range of British Columbia and made first ascents of four peaks.

In 1967, he organized and led the Cape Dyer Arctic-Alpine Expedition to Baffin Island, which began with a long voyage with Eskimos in native whaleboats and resulted in the first ascent of several more Arctic peaks. Dr. Cochran made five more expeditions to Baffin Island from 1972 to 1994.

From 1967 to 1990, he led six expeditions to Ellesmere Island in Canada, including one in 1978 in which he and his party used sledges and skis to travel more than 100 miles in rough weather.

Dr. Cochran was president of the Explorers Club from 1981, the year the club first admitted women, until 1985. The club has about 3,000 members in 58 countries.

George Van Brunt Cochran was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 20, 1932. He studied at Dartmouth College and Columbia University's medical school. In 1958 and 1959 he was a captain and flight surgeon in the United States Air Force.

In 1980 he founded and became director of the Orthopaedic Engineering and Research Center at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y. In 1981, he was appointed professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Columbia.

He is survived by his wife, Caroline; their sons, Alexander of Portland, Ore., and John of Ossining; and a daughter, Linsay, of Eugene, Ore.

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