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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Department of Geology



Geology at Northwestern University was first offered as a course in natural history in 1856. At that time the field of natural history included botany, zoology and mineralogy. Despite a limited knowledge of geology, Oliver Marcy accepted appointment as Northwestern's first professor of natural science in 1862. For the next thirty-seven years he taught all of the University's courses in natural history. In 1892 the professorship of natural history was changed to a professorship of geology. Geology was still a part of the Department of Natural History and involved the fields dynamical geology, structural geology and geography, and historical geology.

Oliver Marcy died in 1899 and Northwestern president Henry Wade Rogers choose geologist Ulysses Sherman Grant to succeed Marcy. Grant soon became chairman of the Department of Geology and Geography. He spent his summers in the field, traveling widely across the United States and Alaska, and filling his notebooks with drawings and descriptions of daily activities. Some of his notebooks are located in this collection. Until his death in 1932, Grant specialized on the regions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Alaska, searching for iron and copper-bearing ore, zinc and lead deposits, mineral resources, gas and oil.

Arthur L. Howland, Robert M. Garrels and David V. Harris, Oscar E. Gram and Howard W. Miller organized trips to explore the large chromite deposits in Montana during the late 1930s and early 1940s, areas of importance to industry and war manufacture.

At the same time William E. Powers mapped the general geology of Massachusetts with special consideration for road materials. Of economic as well as scientific importance was the investigation of gravel, clay and sand deposits of glacial origin in the valley of the Connecticut River. Notes and drawings of Powers trips are located in this collection. So are the field notebooks of John T. Stark, who went to Colorado in the summer of 1943 to examine an iron ore deposit to predict its extent and grade. Despite its relative inaccessibility – heights at Elk Mountain reach up to 13,000 feet - it was meant to be a possible supplement to the other domestic iron ore resources.

After World War II, efforts were made within the Department of Geology to develop mathematical geology. Mathematical techniques were applied to the exploitation of oil-bearing formations and other minerals and their accurate mapping and interpretation. The Department became a leader in research programs that were of special interest to the petroleum industry.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Robert C. Speed (1933-2003) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/14/13

Structural geologist and geophysicist Robert C. Speed (1933-2003) taught at Northwestern University from 1966 to 2002. His work focused on tectonics, structural geology, and active continental margins, mostly in Nevada, Barbados, and across the Caribbean. These papers document Speed's research, fieldwork, publications, and teaching life.

Dates: 1848-2003

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  • Subject: Geology--Nevada X