Frederick A. Milan (1924-1995)

  • Robert Elsner
  • Frank P. Pauls
Keywords: Adaptation (Biology), Anthropology, Biographies, Climatology, Cold physiology, Health, Human physiology, International Biological Programme, Inuit languages, Kinship, Milan, Frederick A., 1924-1995, Survival, Weather stations, Alaska, Arctic regions, Greenland, Wrangell Mountains


Frederick A. Milan died on 28 January 1995 after a series of strokes and related illness of several years. ... His activities around the polar regions of the world are well known and fondly remembered. Fred was Professor Emeritus of Human Ecology and Anthropology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. ... His work as an assistant on the Harvard Peabody Museum Anthropological Expedition to the Aleutian Islands in 1949 heightened his interest in the Arctic. It also impressed upon him the utility of studying Russian for understanding the history of the region. Fred worked in the summers of 1950 and 1952 as an archaeological assistant at Deering and Kodiak, Alaska. He was a weather observer on the Juneau Icefield Research Project in the summer of 1951. His major scholastic interests were in anthropology and linguistics, and he graduated in 1952. In 1953 Fred began several years of association with the former United States Air Force Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory near Fairbanks. ... [In 1954] he and other Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory personnel participated in the Mount Wrangell Research Project, a high-latitude cosmic ray study. His role was as a collaborator in a study of high altitude acclimatization of the team members. ... Fred undertook graduate study at several institutions: the Universities of Oregon, Wisconsin and Copenhagen, and the London School of Economics. His linguistic skills became well developed, and he was especially interested in the Inuit language and culture. He spent one winter in northern Sweden traveling and living with a nomadic Sami family. Back in Alaska in 1956, he began his close association with the Inupiat Eskimo village of Wainwright, Alaska. His ability to speak the language enabled him to gain the villagers' confidence and elicit genealogical information, and endeared him to the people. These activities led eventually to successful completion of his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Wisconsin. ... In the 1960s Fred played an important role in establishing a worldwide study of northern people as part of the Human Adaptability section of the International Biological Program. ... He was a longtime advocate for multidisciplinary study of the needs for health care delivery and for the international exchange of information about circumpolar health problems and research efforts. In 1967 Fred, Dr. C. Earl Albrecht and colleagues in Alaska and other parts of the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics organized, with the support of the Arctic Institute of North America, the First International Symposium on Circumpolar Health. The symposium was held at Fairbanks in July 1967, and these meetings have continued at three-year intervals at various circumpolar locations. Fred was the president of the Sixth International Congress on Circumpolar Health held at Anchorage in 1984. ... During the 1970s and 1980s Fred was a faculty member at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He was a much-respected teacher, and he was noted for conveying his enthusiasm for scholarly work and his respect for the people of anthropological study to students and colleagues. The Fred Milan we knew was a genuine free spirit--he looked at the world through eyes wide with perceptive curiosity and interpreted it with kindness and good humor. We have been made richer and wiser by sharing in some of his generous and stimulating life.