Every so often we receive a book as a donation that I think deserves some special attention. If the book is a “collectible” book we list it online on our book sale site (librarybooksales.org) and place it in our Collector’s Corner Cabinet. I have decided to use this space to highlight some of these special books from time to time. So, today I want to tell you about a book titled Focus on Africa by Richard Upjohn Light. This book has Richard Upjohn Light’s bookplate on the front inside cover and the words “Author’s Copy” written on the front free endpaper.
Richard Upjohn Light was a grandson of W. E. Upjohn (founder of The Upjohn Company); he was also a neurosurgeon, aviator, cinematographer, and director of the Yale School of Medicine (1933 – 1935), director of The Upjohn Company (1337 – 1968), and President of the American Geographical Society.
In September of 1937 Richard Upjohn Light and his wife Mary, decided to fly over South America and Africa to celebrate their recent marriage. He piloted the plane and she was the co-pilot, navigator, and radio operator. At the time, many parts of the world had not been aerially photographed; the American Geographical Society was trying to accrue aerial views in order to assemble complete aerial documentation of the world. Richard and Mary decided to record the trip through aerial photographs and Mary added photographer to her list of duties for the trip. In September of 1937 the Lights left Kalamazoo in a Bellanca monoplane. The plane was unheated and they had to breathe with the aid of oxygen tanks because the plane was unpressurized.
In 1941 Focus on Africa was published (American Geographical Society), describing in text and photographs their flight across Africa. The dust jacket blurb calls this book describing the Light’s trip from Cape Town to Cairo part… “travel book”…part “study in geography”…and a book of “risky adventures”.
Richard Upjohn Light and Mary Upjohn (Light) Meader both had strong, deep ties to our community. Both were adventurers, pioneers and philanthropists, they were committed to cultural understanding, education and the arts. These are the kind of people we all can proudly say come from our hometown.