William Lowell Putnam was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in the United States in 1924 and studied geology at Harvard University. While attending college Putnam volunteered to fight in the Second World War and was wounded in combat, suffering a serious chest injury. This would later prevent him from going to extreme altitudes.
William Lowell Putnam (1924-2014)
In his professional career he was the founder, president and CEO of the Springfield Television Corporation, managing three TV-stations. In 2001, he was inducted into the American Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Putnam is now the sole trustee of the Lowell Observatory, the world’s largest private astronomical research observatory.
Putnam has filled many positions in the American Alpine Club. In 1957 he became the editor of the AAC’s Canadian guidebooks. Later, he served as Councillor, Director, Treasurer and last but not least, President from 1971-73. Putnam was responsible for overseeing the construction of three mountain cabins in western Canada. In 2002, the board of the Alpine Club of Canada approved that one of these huts be renamed the ‘Bill Putnam Hut’, in recognition of his contribution to both the ACC and Canadian mountaineering. He is the only living person to have a hut named after him by the ACC.
For 30 years he was the U.S delegate to the UIAA and for many years he also represented Canada. In 1974, Putnam began his service on the UIAA Council and was later elected Vice President in 1993.
He was the main drafter of the UIAA Kathmandu declaration on the protections of mountains, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1982. Putnam’s main objective has always been to make the UIAA a truly global association.
Bill Putnam is an honorary member of the Appalachian Mountain Club (America’s oldest such society), the American Alpine Club, the Alpine Club of Canada, and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. He has written many books on mountaineering including: A century of American Alpinism, K2: The 1939 Tragedy and a biography of Swiss-Canadian mountain guide Ed Feuz (the last two together with Andrew J. Kaufman).
William Lowell Putnam was elected UIAA honorary member in 2002. He died in 2014 aged 80.