Hiram Bingham was the governor of Connecticut for two days in 1925, and later a U.S. Senator, but he is most famous for his discovery of the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu in 1911. Born in Honolulu on November 19, 1875, the son of a Protestant missionary was educated at the Punahou School of Oahu College and New Hampshire's Phillips Academy before attending Yale University.
Upon graduating from Yale in 1898, Bingham worked as a missionary in Honolulu and as a chemist with the American Sugar Company before returning to school for an advanced degree. Bingham received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1905 and subsequently became exploring the world. He followed Simon Bolívar's route through South America in 1906, continued exploration of the South American continent and was appointed Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies at Yale.
1911 would be the banner year for Hiram Bingham. His first exploration of Peru that year uncovered the lost city of Vitcos, the last Inca capital. Bingham's team later attempted a climb of Mount Coropuna, thought to be the highest mountain in Peru. On July 23, 1911 Bingham and bartender Melchor Arteaga stumbled upon the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was Bingham's belief that he had found Vilcabamba, the last holdout of the Inca against the Spanish. Bingham was wrong, but oddly enough, he was the first to find Espiritu Pampa, which is now the agreed location of Vilcabamba.
Bingham stopped galavanting around the countryside when World War I broke out, opting instead a life of service to his country. After a turn in the military, he joined the Republican Party and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut. Elected governor in 1925, he held the post for only two days before leaving it for the U.S. Senate. He served for eight years in the Senate before retiring from public office.
Amidst his active lifestlye, Bingham was able to father seven children to his first wife Alfreda Mitchell. He married his second wife, Suzanne Carroll Hill in 1937. A member of the Royal Geographical Society and the National Geographic Society, Bingham published no fewer than five books about his explorations. The fedora wearing explorer died in 1956.