World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Clinton Thomas Dent

Clinton Thomas Dent

Clinton Thomas Dent FRCS (7 December 1850 – 26 August 1912) was an English surgeon, author and mountaineer.[1][2]


  • Early life 1
  • Alpinism 2
  • Medical career 3
  • Death 4
  • Publications 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Early life

The fourth surviving son of Thomas Dent, he was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge.[3]


Alongside Albert Mummery, Dent was one of the most prominent of the British climbers who attempted the few remaining unclimbed mountains in the Alps in the period known as the silver age of alpinism. As an alpinist, Dent was very different from Mummery:

[He] lacked the other's fiery touch, nor did he yield to the call of the mountains with Mummery's zest. Dent's expeditions had an almost austerely classic perfection ... While Mummery's alpine career hardly met with any ill will from the mountains until the very end, Dent had to wage a long and protracted war against his greatest conquest, the Dru.[4]

Dent's Zinalrothorn (4,221 m); this is the current voie normale on the mountain.[6]

He then turned his attention to the Aiguille du Dru (3,754 m), a steep granite peak in the Mont Blanc massif that had been ignored by the early generation of alpinists whose ambitions had been focused more on the higher mountains. After eighteen failed attempts with a number of different guides and companions (during which he used ladders to overcome difficulties),[7] Dent at last made the first ascent of the Grande Aiguille du Dru (the higher of the mountain's two summits) on 12 September 1878, with James Walker Hartley and the guides Alexander Burgener and Kaspar Maurer.[8] He wrote of the Dru:

Those who follow us, and I think there will be many, will perhaps be glad of a few hints about this peak. Taken together, it affords the most continuously interesting rock climb with which I am acquainted. There is no wearisome tramp over moraine, no great extent of snow fields to traverse. Sleeping out as we did, it would be possible to ascend and return to Chamonix in about 16 to 18 hrs. But the mountain is never safe when snow is on the rocks, and at such times stones fall freely down the couloir leading up from the head of the glacier. The best time for the expedition would be, in ordinary seasons, in the month of August. The rocks are sound and are peculiarly unlike those of other mountains. From the moment the glacier is left, hard climbing begins, and the hands as well as the feet are continuously employed. The difficulties are therefore enormously increased if the rocks be glazed or cold; and in bad weather the crags of the Dru would be as pretty a place for an accident as can well be imagined.[9]

Together with British alpinists such as Mummery, A. W. Moore and D. W. Freshfield, Dent was involved in the pioneering of climbing in the Caucasus, where he made the first ascent of Gestola (4,860 m) with W. F. Donkin in 1886.

Dent, who was President of the Alpine Club from 1886 to 1889,[1] may have been the first person to have written – in his book Above the Snow Line (1885) – that an ascent of Mount Everest was possible.[10] According to Geoffrey Winthrop Young, 'He has often been quoted as saying that the Alps were exhausted as far back as the 1880s, and he once wrote me a friendly warning not to attempt new Alpine ways, "since there is really nothing left worth risking much for"'.[11] He also took part in the establishment of the Alpine distress signal in 1894.[5]

In Who's Who 1912, Dent gave his recreations as "mountaineering and travel, or any form of hard exercise; art collecting; photography".[1]

Medical career

Dent was a well-known Senior Surgeon at the Belgrave Hospital for Children, Chief Surgeon to the Metropolitan Police from 1904, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.[1] The University of Cambridge awarded him the honorary degree of MCh.[1] He wrote extensively, and his publications include studies of post-surgical insanity and heart surgery, and an account of the wounded in the Transvaal War, to which he had been posted as a correspondent for the British Medical Journal.[12] He also had a special interest in dermatology.[13]


Dent died at the age of 61 after a 'mysterious attack of blood poisoning'.[5] There is a memorial tablet to him on the Britannia Hut above Saas-Fee.[14]


  • Dent, Clinton Thomas, 'The Ascent of Gestola', in On the Edge of Europe: Mountaineering in the Caucasus, ed. Audrey Salkeld, Mountaineers Books, 1994, ISBN 0-89886-388-0
  • Dent, Clinton Thomas, Above The Snow Line: Mountaineering Sketches Between 1870 And 1880, Kessinger Publishing, 2007, ISBN 1-4304-9731-9
  • Dent, Clinton Thomas, Mountaineering, London: Longmans, Green, 1892. 2nd edition (pp. xx + 439, with 2 pages of advertisements, 13 plates and illustrations in text by H. G. Willink and others, with contributions by W. M. Conway, D. W. Freshfield, C. E. Mathews, C. Pilkington, F. Pollock). Republished by Kessinger Publishing, 2007, ISBN 1-4304-9727-0
  • Dent, Clinton Thomas and Christian Albert Theodor Billroth, Clinical Surgery. Extracts from the reports of surgical practice between the years 1860–1876, translated and edited, with annotations, by C. T. Dent and C. A. T. Billroth, New Sydenham Society, vol. 94


  1. ^ a b c d e DENT, Clinton Thomas in Who Was Who 1897–2006 online at Credo Reference (accessed 7 January 2008)
  2. ^ "Dent, Clinton Thomas". Who's Who, 59: p. 472. 1907. 
  3. ^ "Dent, Clinton Thomas (DNT868CT)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ Engel, p. 144
  5. ^ a b c Dumler and Burkhardt, p. 63
  6. ^ Dumler and Burkhardt, p. 136
  7. ^ Dent wrote: 'We used our ladders repeatedly and frequently, but only to shorten our way up, while exploring the mountain. When we actually climbed it, we used one ladder in one place.' Clinton Thomas Dent, 'The History of an Ascent of the Aiguille du Dru', Alpine Journal, Vol. IX, reprinted as 'The First Ascent of the Dru', in Peaks, Passes and Glaciers, ed. Walt Unsworth, London: Allen Lane, 1981, p. 62
  8. ^ Engel, p. 137
  9. ^ 'The First Ascent of the Dru', p. 61
  10. ^ From Sight to Summit:
  11. ^ G. W. Young, 'Mountain Prophets', Alpine Journal, Vol. LIV, reprinted in Peaks, Passes and Glaciers, ed. Walt Unsworth, London: Allen Lane, 1981, p. 137
  12. ^ J G Jones and J S M Zorab (July 2003). "Hawks, doves and vivas; plus ça change...?". Royal College of Anaesthetists, Bulletin 20: 980–983. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Engel, p. 289


  • Dumler, Helmut and Burkhardt, Willi P. (1994) The High Mountains of the Alps. London: Diadem. ISBN 0906371430
  • Engel, Claire (1971) Mountaineering in the Alps, London: George Allen and Unwin

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.