1984 Jury Member

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Location: France

Paul-Emile Victor
France, 1907-1995

An explorer and author, Paul-Emile Victor is one of the world's leading experts on the Arctic and the Antarctic and an ardent defender of man and his environment. His many publications constitute a wealth of knowledge made available to all mankind.


He first felt the call of the poles when he was still a child in the Jura mountains. His studies were geared towards making his dreams come true: to sail away to the polar regions and settle down in Polynesia. An engineer from the Ecole Centrale of Lyon, he holds a bachelor of science, a bachelor of arts and he is a graduate of the Paris Institute of Ethnology. He also served as a naval officer, which taught him navigation.


ln 1934, while attached to the Trocadéro Ethnographie Museum, he organized his first polar expedition. He landed with R. Gessain, M. Perez and F. Matter on the East coast of Greenland and lived among the Ammassalik Inuit.


In 1936 he crossed Greenland on foot and by dog sleigh and for the second time he spent the winter among the Inuit for 14 months. ln 1938 and again in 1939 he made two study voyages to Lapland. ln 1939 he was elected to the Collège de France.


During the Second World War he enlisted as a private in the US Air Force. He became an instructor at the Polar Training School and was sent as a paratroops officer to Alaska where he ended up in command of a reconnaissance squadron rescuing air-craft lost in the Arctic. He ended the war with the rank of Captain.


ln 1947 he set up the French Polar Expeditions (Paul-Emile Victor missions) which he ran until 1976. Since 1977 he has been living with his family on a tiny island in the Bora Bora lagoon in French Polynesia. ln 1974 he was a founder of the Paul- Emile Victor Group for the Defense of Man and his Environment.


ln 1973 the French Academy awarded him the Jean Walter Prize for his aggregate literary work.


He has been made a Commander in the Légion d'honneur, an Officer of the Danebrog (Denmark) and of the Order of Gustav Vasa (Sweden), and been awarded the Grand Gold Medals of the Royal Geographical Society in London, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and the Royal Society of Geography and Ethnography of Sweden. Germany's Society for Polar Exploration awarded him its highest honour as did the Moscow Academy of Science. He has written some 30 technical and scientific books and other publications for the benefit of the general public.

Other 1984 Jury Members