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Gifford Bryce Pinchot’s Birthday

December 22, 2023

The only child of Gifford and Cornelia was born Gifford Bryce Pinchot on December 22, 1915, in New York City. He spent much of his childhood at Grey Towers, fishing and romping with his friends in the “Bait Box”, a spacious and elaborate playhouse designed by the noted architect, Chester Aldrich, and built for him by his parents. But as he grew older, “Giffy’s” passion turned to blacksmithing. He latched on to a local “smithy” in Milford, hanging out there whenever he could, and eventually became quite skilled. Beneath the Bait Box, he fashioned a forge and pounded away often, turning out all sorts of quality fabrications that found places around the estate.

At thirteen, his parents took him on a cruise to the South Pacific on a 150-foot schooner christened the Mary Pinchot. That adventure-filled experience ignited in him a love for sailing.

On June 15, 1936, Gifford Bryce married Sarah (“Sally”) Huntingdon Richards, then graduated with a B.A. from Yale in 1938, and with a Doctorate in Medicine from Columbia in 1942. During World War II, he served in the U. S. Navy Medical Corps.

After the war he returned to Yale for post Doctoral work in research and took a position as an assistant professor there for several years. In 1958, he went to John Hopkins University where he eventually became a full professor.

Gifford authored several books and many articles in the areas of Pathology, Bacteriology and Biochemistry, including one entitled, “A Future For Marine Farming,” appearing in Scientific American in 1970.

When his mother died in 1960, Gifford, who had inherited Grey Towers from his parents, wondered what to do with it. After considerable soul searching, he finally decided to donate the house and 100 acres surrounding it to the Forest Service, the agency his father founded, in hopes the site would be used to continue his father’s conservation work.

He was a licensed pilot as well as a sailor, conservationist, blacksmith, machinist, boat builder, cabinet maker, mountain skier and scuba diver. He once wrote:

“I’ve worked in medicine, physiology, bacteriology, biochemistry and now in marine agriculture. My hobbies are even more widespread…Fortunately my wife also likes to sail, and we’ve had cruising boats since we were married in 1936. We’ve done a good deal of racing having been in eight Bermuda races, and I did one transatlantic race. Together we also cruised from the U.S. to Norway and England and to Tahiti and back. We also like to ski and fly, and I make some furniture in between. It always makes me feel a little guilty to list so many hobbies, but I do feel that we come this way only once and it’s silly not to get as much as we can out of the experience.”


December 22, 2023