In 1891, Angelo Heilprin became the first president of the Geographical Club of Philadelphia. He climbed erupting Mont Pelee on the island of Martinique in 1902. It had sent burning ashes and superheated steam at over 100 miles per hour, suffocating and scorching 40,000 people, and demolishing everything in its path. Soon after the news hit the Philadelphia headlines, Professor Heilprin was on his way south. When he arrived, the mountain was still sending out lava, steam, and toxic gases. Along with a journalist, George Kennan, he clambered up the steep flanks of the volcano until he could see the exploding guts of Mont Pelee just a few feet away. Kennan said: "I must pay the highest possible tribute to Heilprin. .. He is a superb mountaineer and the nerviest and pluckiest man I ever knew. The ascent was the most terrifying experience of my life".
Angelo was born in Hungary in 1853 and emigrated in 1856 with his parents to the US. He went to London where he studied at the Royal School of Mines with Huxley as his guide. There he received the Forbes medal for proficiency in Biology and Paleontology. He did great geographic exploration work in Mexico and elsewhere. The society gives out a Heilprin medal which it has presented to distinguished authors like Thor Heyerdahl, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, John Glenn and others.