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A survey of the study of geology and geologists at the University of Pennsylvania up to the end of the nineteenth century provides a kaleidoscope of the development of American geology. The topics emphasized and the work of Penn faculty elsewhere show the evolution of state and national surveys and organizations.

Geology at the University of Pennsylvania began in 1749 when Benjamin Franklin aided in establishing a formal academy of study. At first, geology was taught peripherally to other fields, mainly by botanists, chemists, and physicians. There was discussion about a professorship of geology and mineralogy in 1816 but the subject was diffused among other professorships. In 1835 geology was formally established at the University of Pennsylvania and Henry Darwin Rogers was appointed Professor of Geology and Mineralogy.

A succession of geologist-administrators dominated Penn geology through much of the nineteenth century; among them, Alexander D. Bache, who left Penn to head the U.S. Coast Survey in 1843; Henry Darwin Rogers, director of the New Jersey Geological Survey and the First Geological Survey of Pennsylvania while a Penn professor; Ferdinand V. Hayden, director of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories; and J. Peter Lesley, director of the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania. Joseph Leidy and Edward D. Cope were renowned vertebrate paleontologists who worked on Hayden’s Survey material.

Beginning around the turn of the century, students succeeded their teachers as heads of the Department and geology declined, with intermittent, unsuccessful attempts to revive it, until 1963, when the present reconstruction began. It is a task which Henry Faul, one of its architects, estimated would take 25 years to complete.

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