One’s background does not always indicate a particular future career. Perhaps this view applies to Hiram Bingham, whose academic training on the graduate level was somewhat different from one major area of his life that identifies him as one of the great anthropologists in the 20th century. He was, however, an individual who was to make important contributions both in archaeology and government during his interesting career in the 20th century.
Hiram Bingham was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1875, from a family background that involved missionary work. Both his father and grandfather were missionaries. Hiram, however, chose a different path in life by becoming an academic and specializing in Latin American history. His early years allowed him to successfully pursue an Ivy League education on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. His BA degree was earned at Yale University in 1898, and in 1905, he received a PhD degree from Harvard University, where he studied history and political science.
In 1906, he sailed to South America and traveled extensively there. His early travels in that part of the world were described in a publication, The Journal of an Expedition Across Venezuela and Colombia. Hiram Bingham later continued his interest in exploring, and these activities were described in another work, Across South America.
As noteworthy as these travels were, they were later outshined by what he is perhaps best remembered for, the discovery of Machu Picchu, usually referred to as the “Lost City,” on a Peruvian hilltop. This particular discovery provided important archeological and historical findings, which still are of great interest and relevance today. They have not only provided important insights into a particular culture but have also contributed to a substantial interest in archeological studies among people around the world.
Hiram Bingham later was to add to his illustrious career by his future military and political activities. After the start of World War I, he became part of the American military, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and had the opportunity to serve abroad in France. He later became involved in politics on the state and national level, even becoming a U.S. Senator representing the state of Connecticut for 8 years. Upon completion of his service in this office, Hiram Bingham resumed other public and private contributory activities, attesting to his intelligence, vigor, and worldly capabilities. He died in 1956.
- Bingham, A. M. (1989). Portrait of an explorer: Hiram Bingham, discover of Machu Picchu. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
- Bingham, H. (1951). Lost city of Machu Picchu and its builders. London: Phoenix House.
- Bingham, H. (1979). Machu Picchu, A citadel of the Incas. New York: Hacker Arts Books.
- James, N., & Fox, J. (1968). The riddle of the Incas: The story of Hiram Bingham and Machu Picchu. New York: Hawthorn Books.