Northeastern Section - 40th Annual Meeting (March 14–16, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:55 AM


FRIEDMAN, Gerald M., Northeastern Sci Foundation, 15 Third Street, P.O. Box 746, Troy, NY 12181-0746,

Ebenezer Emmons (1799-1863), Father of the Taconic System, served as junior professor under Amos Eaton (1776-1842) at the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in 1830, a position he held for ten years. The overthrust which places Lower Cambrian rocks in contact with Middle Ordovician rocks, known as Emmons' line, formerly Logan's line, is a segment that extends from Canada through Vermont, New York, and farther south. It traverses through the city of Troy, the campus of the Rensselaer School, and the Poestenkill Falls and Gorge.

Emmons was appointed State (Chief) Geologist of the northern Geological District of the New York State Geological Survey in 1836. He named the Adirondack Mountains (1838) and Taconic Mountains (1846) and acquainted the public with these regions.

Classic texts published by Emmons include: Manual of Mineralogy and Geology (1826), Report on the Second Geological District of New York (1842), Natural History of New York (1848), and Textbook of Geology (1860).

Schneer (1969) notes that Emmons was the single individual principally responsible for the transformation in American geology, through him New York State became the model and standard for the stratigraphic surveys of much of the rest of the United States. Emmons' student James Hall of the Rensselaer class of 1832 was the chief American invertebrate paleontologist of his era and one of the greatest American scientists of the 19th century.

Emmons and Hall "dueled" over the age of the rocks east of the Hudson River. Hall said they were younger, whereas Emmons claimed them to be older. This division led to suit and counter suit, and ultimately Emmons was forced to leave New York as a result of a court decision favoring Hall. Emmons and Hall are buried next to each other at the Albany Rural Cemetery in Albany, NY. We plan to place a memorial plaque for Emmons in Taconic State Park, NY and include museum exhibits. Hall's plaque is part of a 17 man memorial, including Amos Eaton, James D. Dana, Sir Charles Lyell, and others in Thacher Park, NY.


SCHNEER, C.J., 1969, Ebenezer Emmons and the foundations of American geology: Isis, v. 60, p. 439-450.