Henry Bradford Washburn, Jr. (June 7, 1910 – January 10, 2007) was an American explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer. He established the Boston Museum of Science, served as its director from 1939–1980, and from 1985 until his death served as its Honorary Director (a lifetime appointment). Bradford married Barbara Polk in 1940, they honeymooned in Alaska making the first ascent of Mount Bertha together.
Washburn is especially noted for exploits in four areas.
He was one of the leading American mountaineers in the 1920s through the 1950s, putting up first ascents and new routes on many major Alaskan peaks, often with his wife, Barbara Washburn, one of the pioneers among female mountaineers and the first woman to summit Denali (Mount McKinley).
He pioneered the use of aerial photography in the analysis of mountains and in planning mountaineering expeditions. His thousands of striking black-and-white photos, mostly of Alaskan peaks and glaciers, are known for their wealth of informative detail and their artistry. They are the reference standard for route photos of Alaskan climbs.
Washburn's father, the Very Rev. Henry Bradford Washburn, Sr., was an avid outdoorsman, and was dean of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge Massachusetts. Washburn's mother was Edith Buckingham Hall.
He received an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where he was a member of the Harvard Mountaineering Club. He returned to Harvard to earn a master's degree in geology and geography in 1960.
Washburn embarked on a notable expedition in 1937 to 17,147 feet (5,226 m)Mount Lucania in the Yukon. To do this he and climbing partner Robert Bates had to reach Walsh Glacier, 8,750 ft (2,670 m) above sea level. He called upon Bob Reeve, a famous Alaskan bush pilot, who later replied by cable to Washburn, "Anywhere you'll ride, I'll fly". The ski-equipped Fairchild F-51 made several trips to the landing site on the glacier without event in May, but on landing with Washburn and Bates in June, the plane sank into unseasonal slush. Washburn, Bates and Reeve pressed hard for five days to get the airplane out and Reeve was eventually able to get the airplane airborne with all excess weight removed and the assistance of a smooth icefall with a steep drop. Washburn and Bates continued on foot to make the first ascent of Lucania, and after an epic descent and journey to civilization, they hiked over 150 miles through the wilderness to safety in the small town of Burwash Landing.
In 1994, he received King Albert Medal of Merit from Belgium's King Albert Foundation in recognition of "his guiding spirit in the ambitious and successful enterprise of making a new large-scale map of the roof of the world from 1982 to 1991."
Washburn died of heart failure on January 10, 2007, at the age of 96, in a retirement home in Lexington, Massachusetts. In addition to his wife, he left a son, Edward, and two daughters, Dorothy and Elizabeth.