A Harvard Alumnus
Published:January 01, 1952
In the spring of 1901, before he left for his year’s trip to Europe and Asia, Penrose resigned as secretary of Section E of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a post to which he had been elected in June, 1900, notifying the permanent secretary of that organization, L. O. Howard, that he would not be able to be present at the Denver meeting which was scheduled for August 24 to 31, 1901. On April 18, 1901, Howard replied that “your resignation as Secretary of Section E was laid before the Council at its meeting held yesterday afternoon and was accepted with regret.”
While he was still abroad, he received a notice from the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, signed by Winthrop H. Wade, secretary, announcing that he had “been appointed by the Board of Overseers a member of the Committee on Mining and Metallurgy for the year 1902, and to request that you will accept said appointment.”
On it, a pencilled notation in his father’s handwriting states that he “notified Mr. Wade that you are abroad and will return in February, when the matter will receive attention.” Penrose accepted the position, which he maintained from 1902 to 1923. He also served as a member of the Visiting Committee to the Department of Geology, Mineralogy and Petrography in that institution from 1915 to 1923, and again from 1925 until his death.
Figures & Tables
Life and Letters of R. A. F. Penrose, Jr.
When, in the summer of 1931, Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose Jr., died in Philadelphia, he left his personally acquired fortune, amounting to approximately ten million dollars, to be divided equally between The Geological Society of America and the American Philosophical Society. As a memorial to its benefactor and as a picture of a period in the history of American geological science, this volume has been prepared by The Geological Society of America. Beginning with notebooks, diaries, and letters in the possession of the Society, and adding thereunto material slowly accumulated from his family, his friends, his associates, and acquaintances, the story of his life has been pieced together. For members of Penrose’s profession, the geologists, this account of his life should have particular interest, for it presents a picture of a period which is gone forever, a picture of conditions under which the early investigators in geology and the mineral industry labored and brought forth the principles and methods of later days, methods more scientific, perhaps, but, nevertheless, methods founded upon the efforts of those pioneers. If one is inclined to smile at the picture of the young man of the 1880’s sitting on a bluff above a Texas river, confronted with the problem of making a survey without knowing how to go about it, let him ask himself what he would have done, similarly unequipped and in hitherto unknown territory. Let the geologist of today, with his carefully prepared field equipment, ask himself just how well he would like to look forward to “living off the country”, as Penrose did in the early days in Arkansas. It speaks volumes for the stamina of any man to be able to confront uncomfortable conditions with the nonchalance which Penrose displayed. And how much more to his credit this is, when a man is endowed by birth, position, and economic security so that he need never have left the comforts of urban living in Philadelphia.