William Speirs Bruce FRSE was a Scottish naturalist, polar scientist and oceanographer who organised and led the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition to the South Orkney Islands and the Weddell Sea. Among other achievements, the expedition established the first permanent weather station in Antarctica. Bruce later founded the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory, but his plans for a transcontinental Antarctic march via the South Pole were abandoned because of lack of public and financial support.
In 1892 Bruce abandoned his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh and joined the Dundee Whaling Expedition to Antarctica as a scientific assistant. This was followed by Arctic voyages to Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. In 1899 Bruce, by then Britain's most experienced polar scientist, applied for a post on Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery Expedition, but delays over this appointment and clashes with Royal Geographical Society president Sir Clements Markham led him instead to organise his own expedition, and earned him the permanent enmity of the British geographical establishment. Although Bruce received various awards for his polar work, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, neither he nor any of his SNAE colleagues were recommended by the RGS for the prestigious Polar Medal.