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Career perspective: Jim Milledge

DOI: 10.1186/2046-7648-1-9

Keywords: Autobiography, Altitude physiology medicine, High altitude

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I was born in 1930 in China, where my father was a medical missionary. I came to the UK in 1936 and was brought up in North Wales where I started hillwalking in Snowdonia. In 1948, I entered Birmingham Medical School where I got the rock-climbing bug.After graduating and house jobs, I had to do national service and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a medical officer. I was posted in Hong Kong. The commanding officer was an Alpine Club member, and we formed a mountain rescue team. Besides climbing any rock we could find, we had an expedition to Borneo, to Kinabalu—my first expedition—in 1957. The following year, my wife and I had a 2-week trek in Nepal. This was entirely self-organised with just two porters, with no common language. We fell in love with the country.After demobilisation from the RAF, I decided to specialise in general medicine with an interest in respiratory disease. Working in Southampton with William McLeod, we performed arterial blood sampling in the investigation of lung disease—cutting edge science at the time!In November 1959, I learned that Sir Edmund Hillary and Dr Griffith Pugh were organising an expedition to study the physiology of acclimatisation and to attempt an 8,000-m peak in Nepal. The expedition was to last 9 months, from the end of one monsoon to the beginning of the next. I wrote to Dr Pugh and, because one member dropped out, I was fortunate to get taken on. The plan was to use the autumn for setting up our base camp and high altitude stations in the Everest region (Solu Khumbu), with some members conducting a search for the Yeti. We then planned to spend the winter conducting studies on ourselves as we acclimatised; in the spring, to go over three 6,000-m passes to Makalu (8,462 m) to continue some research up the mountain and attempt to climb it. This became the Silver Hut expedition of 1960–1961 (Figure? 1).We set up the prefabricated hut on a glacier at 5,800 m where we spent the winter doing the planned physiological projec


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