Written By: Liz Ronk

Born in England on June 16, 1925, Michael Rougier began his career as a photographer for the Montreal Standard newspaper. His big break came when he was assigned to photograph cattle being shipped to Argentina from Canada. While in Argentina, he made photos of the then-camera shy Eva Perón, eventually smuggling the pictures out of the country and back north. Those images ran in both the Standard and in LIFE, where he was hired as a staff photographer in November 1947, remaining with the magazine for more than two decades. (He eventually left at the end of 1971, a year before LIFE ceased publishing as a weekly.)

During his 24 years with the magazine, Rougier displayed the sort of versatility for which so many of LIFE’s photographers were known. He covered the Korean War with his greatest work focusing on children orphaned by that conflict. He covered the Hungarian revolution of 1956, weddings in North Dakota, Boy Scouts, horse racing, drug-addled Japanese teens and countless other stories, in countless other locations. He exemplified the ideal of the staff photographer, for whom no assignment was too small (or too big).

Early in his career at LIFE, he accepted a handful of assignments that illuminated his compassion for the powerless. The first was a story about a blind poodle named Midget. The story goes that he almost passed out in the operation room while Midget was being operated on to restore her sight. He also photographed a story in Texas in 1948 about a cat that got around via wheelchair. He even adopted a goat after covering a “goat round-up” in Virginia in 1950.

The one story that most perfectly captures Rougier’s remarkable empathy for his subjects, however, involved a Korean orphan named Kang (see slide #4 in this gallery). In 1951, he was sent to southeast Asia to cover the Korean War (replacing his LIFE colleague, John Dominis). While there, Rougier came across the Taegu orphanage and met Kang, a boy who would eventually be introduced to the LIFE’s readers as “the boy who wouldn’t smile.”

At one point, Rougier sent a remarkable open letter to his colleagues back at Time Inc. in New York asking—in fact, almost begging—for assistance to help Kang and the orphanage. (“You might be a helluva long way from war in a bar in New York but these kids can’t remember anything but war few of them remember anything of their life before their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters were killed right before their eyes. Get the contacts of my first take and look at them look at Kang and then please send some stuff.”)

The letter got results. The orphanage received money, books, vitamins, clothing. Kang did, eventually, smile and was adopted by an American family.

From the first, Rougier was recognized as a stellar photojournalist by his peers, and won Magazine Photographer of the Year honors from the National Press Photographers Association in 1954.

In 1964, meanwhile, on assignment in Antarctica, Rougier almost met his death when he was seriously injured after tumbling more than 600 feet down a mountainside while covering scientists who were working at the bottom of the world studying glaciers. Today, the peak is called “Rougier Hill,” in honor of the intrepid photographer who nearly died on its slopes.

Michael Rougier, who was an accomplished sculptor in addition to being a masterful photojournalist, died in Canada on January 5, 2012.

Liz Ronk edited this photo gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Grand Central, 1948

A father sits on the floor of Grand Central in New York while waiting for train with his sons during a snowstorm, 1948.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Korean War 1951

Korean War, 1951.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Korean War 1951

An wounded Indian ambulance driver clenches his hands indicating the intense pain he’s enduring after having his leg almost completely blown off, Korea, 1951.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Kang Koo Ri, 1951

Korean orphan Kang Koo Ri eats a meal in an orphanage after American soldiers found him next to dead mother, 1951.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

May Day in Tokyo, 1952

Communist students jubilantly snake dance through the street during an anti-American May Day rally in Tokyo, 1952.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Korea, 1952

Korea, 1952.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Korean War 1953

John Ploch, an imprisoned American who had not been reported as a POW by the North Koreans during the Korean War, sits in dazed disbelief as he is processed during a prisoner exchange, 1953.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The last American to die before the Korean War truce was signed -- a 22-year-old Marine Corporal killed by a Chinese mortar.

The last American to die before the Korean War truce was signed — a 22-year-old Marine Corporal killed by a Chinese mortar.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Korean War 1953

A Chinese soldier on a battlefield with a burial detail, searching for bodies, after the Korean War cease-fire, objecting to being photographed, 1953.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Hall of Fame jockeys Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro, 1954.

Hall of Fame jockeys Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro, 1954.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A draftee relaxes on his bunk during basic training, Fort Carson, Colorado, 1955.

A draftee relaxes on his bunk during basic training, Fort Carson, Colorado, 1955.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Immigrants arrive in the U.S., 1955.

Immigrants arrive in the U.S., 1955.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A Hungarian man sings a patriotic song as Soviet tanks move into Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

A Hungarian man sings a patriotic song as Soviet tanks move into Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Hungarian resistance fighters fire toward a Russian observation plane shortly before the Soviet annexation of Hungarian territory, 1956.

Hungarian resistance fighters fire toward a Russian observation plane shortly before the Soviet annexation of Hungarian territory, 1956.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Hungarian resistance fighters, 1956.

Hungarian resistance fighters, 1956.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A disabled tank near coffins being used for the bodies of Russian soldiers killed during the popular uprising against the Communist-backed Hungarian government, Budapest, 1956.

A disabled tank near coffins being used for the bodies of Russian soldiers killed during the popular uprising against the Communist-backed Hungarian government, Budapest, 1956.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Women march in honor of countrymen who died fighting the Soviets during the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

Women march in honor of countrymen who died fighting the Soviets during the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Mexican field workers examined before being put to work, 1959.

Mexican field workers examined before being put to work, 1959.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman at Speaker of the House (D-TX) Sam Rayburn's funeral, 1961.

John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman at Speaker of the House (D-TX) Sam Rayburn’s funeral, 1961.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Actor Mickey Hargitay kisses his wife, Jayne Mansfield, after their rescue from an overturned boat in the Bahamas in 1962.

Actor Mickey Hargitay kisses his wife, Jayne Mansfield, after their rescue from an overturned boat in the Bahamas in 1962.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Anti-American riots, Panama City, Panama, 1964.

Anti-American riots, Panama City, Panama, 1964.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Seventeen-year-old Yoko, with arms outstretched, Japan, 1964.

Seventeen-year-old Yoko, with arms outstretched, Japan, 1964.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Yoko (left) ends a long night of clubbing by sleeping on a futon in a friend's room, Japan, 1964.

Yoko (left) ends a long night of clubbing by sleeping on a futon in a friend’s room, Japan, 1964.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Kako, languid from sleeping pills, is lost in a world of her own in a jazz club in Tokyo, 1964.

Kako, languid from sleeping pills, is lost in a world of her own in a jazz club in Tokyo, 1964.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Robert F. Kennedy lends moral support to striking grape pickers and their leader, Cesar Chavez (on hunger strike), 1968.

Robert F. Kennedy lends moral support to striking grape pickers and their leader, Cesar Chavez (on hunger strike), 1968.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Frank Sinatra sits quietly a few minutes before what he said, at the time, was his final concert, Hollywood, 1971. He came out of retirement two years layer, and would record and perform for many more years.

Frank Sinatra sits quietly a few minutes before what he said, at the time, was his final concert, Hollywood, 1971. He came out of retirement two years layer, and would record and perform for many more years.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

LIFE photographer Michael Rougier, kneeling on ground with a Korean orphan.

LIFE photographer Michael Rougier, kneeling on ground with a Korean orphan.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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