2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


LEVITON, Alan E.1, ALDRICH, Michele2 and WILLIAMS, Gary C.1, (1)California Academy of Sciences, 875 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, (2)California Academy of Sciences, 24 Elm Street, Hatfield, MA 01038, aleviton@catalacemy.org

Of the seven amateur naturalists who met in San Francisco on April 4, 1853 to establish an organization for the study of the natural history of their newly adopted homeland, two could claim interest in earth sciences, Andrew Randall and John Boardman Trask. The former had served as an assistant to David Dale Owens on the Federal Survey of the Wisconsin and Minnesota territories; the latter, who had arrived in California in 1850, was a medical practitioner with a penchant for carrying out geological surveys in the state. Soon thereafter, federal surveyor Leander Ransom and then Josiah Dwight Whitney and the members of the California State Survey, which Whitney headed from 1860 to 1872, became active in Academy affairs. Surveys, collections, presentations at meetings describing field work, and publications, some of fundamental importance, such as Ferdinand von Richthofen's classification of igneous rocks (1868), became commonplace. Indeed, for years the Academy served as scientific home for both resident and visiting scientists, Richthofen, Amos Bowman, William Dall, James Blake, James Graham Cooper, George Davidson, William Gabb, William Brewer, and Clarence King, among others. Geologists associated with the Academy investigated topics ranging from descriptive geology to earthquakes, mountain building, paleontology, and glaciation. But over time, the function of the Academy in the professional lives of geologists changed, the more so with the founding of the University of California in Berkeley and, in 1891, Stanford University in Palo Alto. Nonetheless, before 1906 and the devastation wrought by the San Francisco earthquake and fire that year, more than 50 geologists had associated themselves with the Academy, and together they left an enduring body of work that has survived to this day. Furthermore, in 1882, the Academy, through the generosity of Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker, acquired a substantial collection of exhibit-grade “Geology, Mineralogy and Natural History” specimens from Henry Augustus Ward, and these were placed on public display, including a spectacular Mastodon reconstruction, first at the Mercantile Library Hall in San Francisco and then on the main floor of the Academy's new downtown San Francisco museum building, which opened in 1891.