Young Thomas Whittemore Young Thomas Whittemore

1871 Thomas Whittemore was born in Cambridgeport, MA, on January 2, 1871.

1889 Whittemore began his undergraduate studies at Tufts College.

1894 Whittemore graduated from Tufts College with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. The College appointed him as an Instructor of English, a position he held until 1899.

1895 Whittemore entered Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he likely took courses in and developed a passion for the Fine Arts. However, he did not obtain a graduate degree. Additionally, Tufts renewed his contract and gave him “charge of more than one half of the work in Rhetoric and Composition.”

1898 Whittemore was promoted to Assistant Professor of English at Tufts College and was given charge of “all required Composition.”

1899 Whittemore introduced a Fine Arts course focusing on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into the Tufts curriculum. While still primarily affiliated with the English department, Whittemore was also named “Instructor in the History of Art.”

Drawing of a young Thomas Whittemore, ca. 1898 Drawing of a young Thomas Whittemore, ca. 1898


1900 Whittemore developed another survey course on the art of ancient Greece and Egypt.

1904 Whittemore was promoted to Professor of English at Tufts College, a position he held until 1911.

1908 After being granted a leave of absence from Tufts, Whittemore traveled to Paris in order to study architecture at the Sorbonne. In the summer of 1908, Whittemore served as an instructor at Columbia University, lecturing on ancient Greek and Egyptian history, art, and architecture before setting sail for Europe.


1911 In January 1911, Whittemore was appointed the American representative at excavations conducted by the British-run Egypt Exploration Society (formerly known as the Egypt Exploration Fund). He joined the excavation team at Abydos and worked under field director Edouard Naville. He spent the majority of his time in Egypt until December 1911.

Thomas Whittemore at the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Abydos Thomas Whittemore at the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Abydos

1912 Whittemore officially resigned from Tufts in order to devote himself more fully to his archaeological pursuits. He also made his first trip to Bulgaria to conduct “archaeological studies.” In November 1912, he again traveled to Abydos, Egypt, where he participated in excavations throughout the 1912–1913 season.

1914 Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Whittemore spent his time in Europe, particularly Paris, where he coordinated a program aiding Russian boys.  He also spent time at Sawama and Balabish (sites near Abydos, Egypt), where he helped coordinate independent excavation projects. By the end of the year, Whittemore was working with the Red Cross in France.

1915 Beginning in January 1915, Whittemore dedicated himself to the Army Medical Service in France. He also continued excavations at Balabish during the Spring of 1915. In November 1915, Whittemore joined Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna’s war relief efforts at Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg).

1916 Whittemore created the Committee for the Relief of Refugees in Russia.  Mrs. Elizabeth Carrington Read Cram, wife of architect Ralph Adams Cram, was named president, and the American Red Cross recognized the new relief organization.

1919 The “Committee for the Russian Refugees” was renamed the “Committee for the Rescue and Education of Russian Children.”  Soon thereafter, it acquired its final name, the “Committee for the Education of Russian Youth in Exile.” During this time, Whittemore also traveled to Turkey to aid the significant number of Russian refugees living there. Whittemore met Boris N. Ermoloff in Istanbul (also known as Constantinople) while attempting to deliver clothing and foodstuffs to the refugees.

Thomas Whittemore at the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Amarna Thomas Whittemore at the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Amarna


1920 Whittemore continued his relief work in Turkey, focusing his efforts on “the uprooted youngsters taken from schools and universities or who joined freely the anti-red ranks.” He created a committee based in Istanbul that selected promising young refugees to be sent to universities in Europe and the Near East. In September 1920, Whittemore may have provided financial and administrative support for early archaeological endeavors by Ivan Velkoff and André Grabar at the Messemvria Basilica in Bulgaria.

1923 On May 26, 1923, Whittemore and George D. Pratt traveled to Mount Athos, Greece, in order to deliver food and supplies to Russian and Bulgarian monks who were in need following the Russian Revolution. Between November and December 1923, Whittemore assisted the Egypt Exploration Society with excavations at Amarna.  At this time, the Society was working to unearth the Main Town Site and the North Palace.

1924 In December 1924, Whittemore once again joined the Egypt Exploration Society excavation team at Amarna.  Following the sudden death of field director F.G. Newton, Whittemore became acting field director and oversaw the completion of Newton’s final project, the excavation of the North Palace.

Studio portrait of Thomas Whittemore by Maurice Seymour Studio portrait of Thomas Whittemore by Maurice Seymour

1927 Whittemore returned to the realm of academia for a short time after being invited to lecture on Byzantine art at New York University (NYU). He was soon promoted to Assistant Professor, a position he held until 1930.


1930 Whittemore founded the Byzantine Institute.

1931 On March 2, 1931, The New York Times announced that the Byzantine Institute, directed by Thomas Whittemore, had just concluded its study of the Monasteries of Saints Anthony and Paul along the Red Sea. During this period, Whittemore may have also visited the White Monastery in Sohag, Egypt, after his trip from the Red Sea Monasteries.

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