Trivia question: In 1938, who was described as "the only woman to achieve an outstanding position in Arctic exploration"? Hint: You can find her name on a detailed map of eastern Greenland. Check the spot at 73$ 31' north latitude and 28$ west longitude. If you couldn't name Louise Arner Boyd without help, you aren't alone. Many professional geographers don't know about the discoverer of the icy realm known today as Louise Boyd Land, a woman who led seven expeditions to the Arctic. But in the 1930s, exploits of the adventurous San Francisco socialite who traded her fashionable gowns for fur-lined parkas and hobnailed boots were proclaimed on the front pages of American and European dailies. One newspaper described the forty-something woman as "the girl who tamed the Arctic wilds." Boyd wrote and edited several technical books on Greenland, complete with descriptions of the geology, plants and animals of what often is called the world's largest island. Each contains hundreds of Boyd's photographs documenting the uninhabited region's features. Members of the august and PhD-laden American Geographical Society in New York considered Boyd one of their own although she had never attended college. AGS members were so impressed by her abilities that the society gave Boyd its prestigious Cullum Medal in 1938 for being a "dauntless leader of scientific expeditions into the Arctic." The award put her in the company of polar explorers Robert F. Scott and Robert E. Peary, previous winners. The U.S. government valued Boyd's expertise enough to put her in charge of a sensitive scientific mission during World War II. She even received a Certificate of Achievement for "outstanding patriotic service to the Army as a contributor of geographic knowledge." "There is no question that she was a pioneer for women in expedition science. If you consider the times, it was a big deal to have a woman in charge," says Melvin Marcus, a professor of geography at Arizona State University who recalls that, even as late as the 1960s, "it was a real fight to get women into field research." On Sept. 16, 1887, Louise Boyd was born into the full glit ter of San Francisco society. Her family had become rich during the California gold rush, and the young woman was groomed for a life of debutante balls, presentation at the Court of St. James in Britain, musical philanthropy and Red Cross fund-raisers. This was a woman who always wore flowers and tended her precious camellias in a suit and proper hat. But her childhood also was spent riding and shooting with her brothers. After her her young brothers succumbed to rheumatic fever and her father died in 1920, Boyd was alone at age 32 with a $3 million fortune and responsibility for the Boyd Investment Co. Four years later, a trip on a tourist ship cruising from Norway to the island of Spitsbergen, far north of the Arctic Circle, hooked Boyd on the ice-packed northern latitudes that would become her life's passion. In those years, explorations of the Arctic and polar regions had captivated the public much as expeditions to the moon would a later generation. Boyd couldn't help but be influenced by her times, says Geoffrey Martin, a historian of geography at Southern Connecticut State University. "When she was young, there was a tremendous fascination with the conquest of the north and south poles." Boyd, who said she had always liked geography, became so entranced by her sea voyage that she hired an expert to teach her everything he knew about the Arctic. While most explorers had to beg funding from outside sources, Boyd decided to finance her own trips northward. She described the world she cherished in her 1935 scholarly book, The Fiord Region of East Greenland: "Far north, hidden behind grim barriers of pack ice, are lands that hold one spellbound. Gigantic imaginary gates, with hinges set in the horizon, seem to guard these lands. Slowly the gates swing open, and one enters another world where men are insignificant amid the awesome immensity of lonely mountains, fiords and glaciers." After the tourist trip, it took two more -- in 1926 and 1928 -- for Boyd to decide that she wanted to make a contribution to science. The 1926 trip to Franz Josef Land aboard the MS Hobby had been a summer shooting party for Boyd and her society friends. Said to be able to hit her target from a moving ship, Boyd accounted for five or six of the 29 polar bears shot on that trip. Decades after the event, Boyd told a New York Times reporter that "people are always exaggerating. For instance, it's not true I shot 19 polar bears in one day." Still, the socialite's hunting skill gave rise to this limerick: There was a young lady named Boyd Whom polar bears tried to avoid. For when she fired shot They went where 'twas hot With a joy not unalloyed. In 1928, Boyd planned a pleasure trip in Arctic waters and chartered the Hobby, a ship that had carried supplies for the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen during one of his attempts to reach the north pole. Her plans changed quickly when Boyd heard that Amundsen was missing in an attempt to rescue the crew of a crashed dirigible. Boyd volunteered her ship's services to the Norwegian government and for months, she and her crew cruised the coastlines of Greenland, Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land, eventually covering 10,000 miles. Amundsen was never found, but Boyd's efforts won her Norway's Order of St. Olaf. When she heard that the king himself would present the honor, she reportedly high-tailed it to Paris for gowns and a proper fur because she had only Arctic attire. The 1928 search boosted Boyd's career because it allowed her to meet Scandinavia's great explorers and geographers, says Elizabeth Fagg Olds in her book Women of the Four Winds. Among influential people Boyd met was Lauge Koch, a leading Danish scientist who would name a piece of Greenland after Boyd following her 1931 expedition. The name originally given was Weisboydlund, or Miss Boyd Land. "The luck of the beginner, as well as a season of unusually favorable weather," Olds wrote, "smiled upon Louise on {the 1931} trip so that despite the lack of scientists in her party {she would assemble these for her next and all subsequent trips}, she achieved astonishing results." During that expedition, Boyd and her crew found land between the De Geer and Jaette glaciers, a discovery that contradicted the best available maps. Also, some of the thousands of photographs that Boyd shot on each expedition showed that two fiords further inland were connected, correcting another misperception. The photos were so good that AGS surveyor Walter Wood was able to map the region to scale without having taken a field measurement, Olds reported. Boyd shot her pictures after heeding advice from AGS Director Isaiah Bowman, who introduced her to photogrammetry, a new technique that used photography and surveying to create reconnaissance-scale maps. In the days before aerial photography was common, photogrammetry involved photographing a given site from several positions, a process that yields the equivalent of a three-dimensional view. "When all the information was strung together, you got a sense of topography," Marcus says. That Bowman, a crusty, establishment scholar who eventually became an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt and president of Johns Hopkins University, gave Boyd the time of day says much about the woman. According to Martin, Bowman's biographer, Bowman had no patience for dilettantes, certainly not for women. "He was hard on women and thought they should just stay home," Martin says. Instead of cultivating her interest in geography quietly at home, Boyd represented the geographical society, the National Academy of Sciences and the State Department at the International Geographical Congress in Warsaw, Poland, in 1934. For that trip, she brought her chauffeur and her car, a customized Packard, so she could travel around Poland to chronicle rural life with her camera. Boyd's photographs from that adventure appear in Polish Countrysides, published by AGS in 1937. There Boyd wrote that she "could make no better contribution to geographical knowledge than to bring back from my expeditions and journeys as complete and well-selected photographic records as possible" and deposit them in an institution for study. That book still is considered a critical record of prewar rural Poland, says Mary Lynne Bird, AGS's executive director. Bowman lost nothing by lending Boyd the society's professional stamp of approval for her 1933, 1937 and 1938 expeditions and eventually publishing her work. The socialite explorer used her own funds to charter the ship, named Veslekari, hire the crew and equip months-long ventures. Wood, who had accompanied Boyd on the 1933 expedition, once estimated its budget at $40,000 in 1933 dollars. Boyd, Marcus says, represented one of the last revivals of a Victorian phenomenon -- the wealthy explorer who poured a personal fortune into expeditions aimed at advancing science and satisfying profound personal curiosity. "That kind of patron of science has disappeared," he says. Boyd engaged the best scientists available to do the mapping, geology, botany and depth soundings that marked her expeditions. The scientific team and crew sometimes included 25 or more people. While conditions were not luxurious because the ship had no running water and most food was canned, she made the voyages as comfortable as she could on the 125-foot, oak-ribbed sealing ship. One personal luxury, however, remained. Boyd outfitted a cabin for her personal maid and brought her on many voyages. Unlike her first exposure to Arctic waters, Boyd's exploring voyages were not casual trips. For example, getting from open water to land sometimes meant two weeks of slow sailing through pack ice, threading a 150-mile passage between mountain-sized blocks of floating ice even in midsummer. The wooden ship always risked being crushed. In her book The Coast of Northeast Greenland, Boyd recalls when the Veslekari was "pinched" in the ice and being rolled sideways. The remedy was to dynamite the ice not far from the ship's sides. Once, a fire in Boyd's cabin, caused by an oil-lamp accident in rough seas, threatened the store of dynamite under her bunk. She ran to tell the captain, who "yelled bloody murder and rushed to the room with fire extinguishers before the flames had started to lap at the supposedly fireproof case." When Boyd and her team reached land, the only way to move was on foot. All surveying and photographic equipment had to be carried. There were no sled dogs. She and the others worked furiously because the explorers had to get back to sea before the weather changed in late August or September. Boyd and scientists on her trips presented detailed records of the 1930s expeditions in her books. But findings from her 1941 Greenland trip on behalf of what then was called the Bureau of Standards have never been published, although the bureau commended her for results achieved. Boyd had been chosen to lead the trip -- and funded it -- to western Greenland and eastern Arctic Canada to study how radio waves traveled through the ionosphere, a layer of electrically charged particles high in the atmosphere. At that time, scientists were puzzled as to why radio waves did not travel well in the Arctic, a matter of intense concern as the United States moved toward World War II and feared a German presence in northern waters. In those tense prewar years, the government also asked Boyd to delay publishing details of her 1937 and 1938 expeditions for fear that the Germans would use her maps and photographs to military advantage. Boyd complied, turning over her Arctic collection to the war effort. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Edward H. Smith used Boyd's findings in a 1940 mission to Greenland. She served as a consultant to the War Department in 1942 and 1943 but remained discreet about her work in the Military Intelligence Division. Even her closest colleagues in the Washington-based Society for Women Geographers never learned what she did. Boyd's final foray into the Arctic involved hiring a plane and crew in 1955 so she could reach her goal of seeing the north pole. She was 67. In later years, Boyd, who had never married, lived quietly in the San Francisco area, her finances dwindling. In 1962, she sold her mansion, Maple Lawn, to the San Rafael Elks Club. She divided her library among the universities of California and Alaska and the Louise Boyd Natural Science Museum in San Rafael. Her final years were spent in a nursing home, paid for by friends. One source says Boyd had used most of her assets to finance her expeditions. Another, historian Olds, wrote: "The evaporation of her wealth, particularly in view of her earlier sagacity and attention to careful investment, remains a mystery." In 1972, Louise Boyd died in the nursing home. She was two days from turning 85. Friends had her ashes scattered over the Arctic. Anna Maria Gillis is features editor of BioScience, a monthly magazine of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. CAPTION: Louise Boyd on a ship in 1926 with a polar bear she shot. CAPTION: In later years, Boyd lived quietly in the San Francisco area. CAPTION: Boyd photographing Greenland with her Fairchild Aerial Camera. CAPTION: Above, Louise Boyd Land, the region of Greenland named for the American explorer, as seen from her ship in a fiord leading to the wilderness. At right, her ship, the Veslekari, anchored to pack ice during her 1937 expedition.