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Editor’s Note: With profound sorrow we received the news from Mildred White of the death of her husband, George W. White, on the 20th of February, 1985. George was instrumental in the founding of the GSA History of Geology Division in 1976 and was the first recipient of the Divisional Award when it was established in 1982. George will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues, especially those of us in the History of Geology Division.


The craton was the focal point for the development of glacial geology in North America. Glacial deposits in the Ohio Valley were illustrated and described early in the century by Volney (1803, 1804), who, however, did not understand their origin and Drake (1815, 1825), who attributed the origin of erratics to icebergs. The iceberg hypothesis for the deposition of at least a part of the glacial drift persisted until late in the century.

The first glacial geologist in America was Charles Whittlesey who made early but significant studies in several states in the 1840s and 1850s. Whittelsey published the earliest maps and sections in America showing end moraines, kettle holes, and the glacial boundary. He was the first in America to classify drift, describe the “Forest Bed,” and trace drift in the subsurface.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the state geological surveys assumed a leadership role in glacial studies. Most notable of these was the Ohio Geological Survey directed by John Newberry, who was recognized as the leading glacial geologist of his time. An understanding of glacial lobes, glacial erosion of lake basins, moraines, multiple glaciation, and climatic change developed during this period.

In the 1880s, the U.S. Geological Survey under the guidance of T. C. Chamberlin established dominance in glacial studies of a regional nature. Chamberlin’s recognition that the glacial drift represented several glacial advances separated by warmer, nonglacial periods led to a formal classification for the North American Pleistocene.

By 1886, Chamberlin considered his phase of glacial studies essentially complete, and he assigned the responsibility of detailed moraine mapping to one of his assistants, Frank Leverett. Leverett proceeded to map in considerable detail the glacial drift and related geomorphic features of the Illinois and Erie lobes, covering an area extending from Iowa to New York. Leverett’s detailed mapping, keen observations, and ability to synthesize large volumes of data provided a fitting climax to nineteenth century glacial studies.

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