Search for an Heir
Published:January 01, 1952
Throughout the last years of his life, Richard Penrose was seeking an heir for the great fortune he had accumulated by his own efforts—not for the money which he had inherited, for he had actually inherited very little, the estate of both his mother and his father having been in the form of a trust fund, the principal of which he could not touch. But the fortune which he had made was his to dispose as he pleased, and he searched, as every man seeks to do, for a means which would best fulfill his own objectives. The late Charles Schuchert, emeritus professor of invertebrate paleontology at Yale University, who knew something of that search, wrote the story thus: It is not clear in my mind exactly when and where I first met the late Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose, except that it was about 1910, and that the introduction was made by my intimate friend, John M. Clarke. At later meetings of the G.S.A. we often shook hands and commented on the doings at these gatherings. My first letter came from him in middle March, 1929, when, as chairman of the Committee on the Hayden Medal awarded every third year by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, he notified me that I was to be the recipient of the medal the following month. After the short ceremony, Penrose asked me to dine with him at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, and here we spent the rest of the evening in his apartment, chatting about things geological and paleontological.
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.