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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.

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