The appearance of this volume, at a time after the Society has completed ao years of operations under the benefaction of Doctor Penrose, cannot fail to prompt many questions in the minds of the variety of readers from many walks of life—geologists and other scientists, lay folks from the professions and world of business, students of biography and genealogy, officers of other scientific organizations, patrons of other sciences, possibly some potential patrons, and citizens of many lands. All sorts of questions must arise from a situation so unique from every possible angle! A little-known profession interests a member of a prominent family best known for its political connections. He rises to the heights of the profession as a practitioner, professor, investor. He is recognized by the small but oldest and principal geological society in the United States, serves as its president, and a few months later bequeaths to it his half estate, that the income therefrom may be utilized in the pursuit of purposes to which he had given his professional years. Probably no other small organization in a relatively obscure science was ever so richly endowed. Comprehensive coverage of the area of inquiry would require a second volume. For this neither time nor space is here available. In fact, it would require deeper insight into the future than we possess. It would amount to a “biography” of the Society with parts, chapters, and paragraphs setting forth the devotion and loyalties of many Fellows, and closing with at least a word of prophesy.
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.