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Anthropologist Wade Davis to receive Roy Chapman Andrews Distinguished Explorer Award

On Fri, April 21, the Roy Chapman Andrews Society will honor Wade Davis CM, the 2017 recipient of their Distinguished Explorer Award.

The Roy Chapman Andrews Society was founded in 1999 by a group of residents of the City of Beloit. Their goal is to honor the legacy of anthropologist and Beloit College alumnus Roy Chapman Andrews through education and outreach, as well as to emphasize his ties to the area. The society has been presenting the Distinguished Explorer Award since 2003 to scientists who have made significant discoveries through exploration.

Wade Davis, the society’s honoree this year, is an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, and photographer from British Columbia. The focus of his work is indigenous cultures, particularly those of the Americas, and their traditional uses of and beliefs surrounding psychoactive plants. He has published 14 books on this topic as well as on the subject of vanishing cultures and languages.

Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, and in 2015 he became a member of the Order of Canada, the second highest honor for merit in Canada. Although his publications are widely popular and have earned him a number of accolades in addition to the one he will receive on Friday, he has been criticized by fellow scientists for scientific inaccuracies and ethical breaches concerning his research into the phenomenon of Haitian “zombies.”

Roy Chapman Andrews was an explorer and naturalist who gained fame through popular accounts of his adventures. A number of historians speculate that Andrews served as inspiration for the title character in George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones film franchise.

Andrews was born in Beloit in 1884 and graduated from Beloit College in 1906 with an English degree. Upon graduating, he moved to New York City, where he worked at the American Museum of Natural history and earned a degree in mammalogy from Columbia University. He joined the newly founded Explorers Club in 1908, and began participating in research expeditions the following year.

From 1922 to 1928, he commanded expeditions into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia, initially as a proponent of the Out of Asia theory, which was popular among anthropologists at the time and theorized that South Asia was the cradle of the human species. Andrews and his team did not discover early human remains during this trip, but they did find a number of dinosaur bones as well as, most notably, the first fossilized dinosaur eggs ever discovered. Andrews passed away in California in 1960 and was buried in Beloit.

During his week in Beloit, Wade Davis will present some of his work to middle and high school students from the area. He will accept the Distinguished Explorer Award, which includes a commemorative statue and a cash prize, at 4:30 pm in Eaton Chapel on Friday. He will also give a public acceptance lecture, titled “Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.”

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