Isabel Hutchison lived from 30 May 1889 to 20 February 1992. She was a pioneering arctic traveller and author. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Isabel Wylie Hutchison was the third of five children of Thomas Hutchison, a wine merchant, and his wife Jean Wylie. As a child she lived in the small hamlet of Carlowrie near Kirkliston, which today stands just a few hundred yards north of the main runway at Edinburgh Airport. She was schooled in Edinburgh and first began to make a name for herself publishing poetry from 1911.
In 1924 she produced an article about Iceland in the National Geographic Magazine in which she reported on an arduous walk she had completed right across the island. This was the beginnings of her association with northern latitudes. Her next major trip was to Greenland to collect plant specimens. She returned to Alaska a number of times, on one occasion spending a year living in an Inuit village north of the Arctic Circle. Then, in 1933, she undertook a major journey around the coast of northern Alaska by boat and dog-sleigh. In 1937 she explored the Aleutian Islands, reaching their northernmost tip.
On each occasion, Isabel collected plants she found for Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society. A number of other objects she brought back now reside in museums in Cambridge and Edinburgh. It total Isabel Hutchison wrote six books of poetry and four books about her travels in the Arctic. She was also gave regular talks about her travels. After a spell working as a censor during the Second World War, Isabel continued to write after it. She also continued to travel, undertaking long walks across Britain and the Alps while in her sixties. In old age she lived with her sister Hilda at the family home of Carlowrie.
Isabel's achievements were recognised in many ways during her life. In 1935 she was given the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and she was awarded the Danish Freedom Medal in 1946. She was awarded an honourary degree by the University of St Andrews in 1949.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".