J Harlen Bretz has made distinguished contributions to the science of geology in three separate fields: (1) the Pleistocene glacial geology of northwestern and north-central United States and southern Alberta, Canada; (2) the concurrent erosional history and the development of the limestone caverns in the Ozark Uplift region of Missouri; and (3) the teaching of geology at the University of Chicago, both in the classroom and in the field, as a means not only of imparting essential geological knowledge, but, of greater importance, of developing the mental traits of scientific inquiry.

In glacial geology, Bretz's greatest contribution was his recognition in the early 1920's, after several years of preliminary field work, that the unique features of the Scabland topography of the Columbia plateau in southeastern Washington could have been formed only by a sudden catastrophic flood of a magnitude previously unknown in geologic science.

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