Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:05 AM
THE DEVELOPMENT OF FRANK TAYLOR'S GEOLOGICAL THEORIES AS ILLUSTRATED FROM HIS LETTERS -- AN EXAMPLE OF BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICAL ISSUES
Frank Bursley Taylor is best remembered for his work in glacial geology and for his development of the sliding continents theory, which is often linked with Wegener's theory of floating continents. The collection of the letters and reports of Frank Bursley Taylor, held at Michigan State University, represents an excellent example of how Taylor's geological theories changed and developed during the period between 1885 and 1937. Taylor began his career as an amateur geologist in the early 1880's, studying the shorelines of Mackinac Island, where his family had a summer home. His health was so poor that he left Harvard in 1884 with a physician companion to travel around the Great Lakes to regain his strength. Initially, he considered the old shorelines and outlet channels to be marine in origin, but his early correspondence with G.K. Gilbert and others gradually convinced him of their glacial origin. During the 1890's and 1900's, Taylor's continued mapping and reports gradually earned him professional status, and employment with USGS, the Canadian Geological Survey, and the Michigan Geological Survey. His correspondents include Gilbert, Goldthwait, Chamberlin, Upham, Fairchild, Lane, Wright, and, the man who became perhaps his best friend and colleague, Frank Leverett. The letters between Taylor and Leverett document in great detail the creative process of putting together USGS Monograph 53. The letters also describe how each man observed and tested the theories of glacial landform development over the course of nearly 50 years. There is also discussion of the views, pro and con, of other scientists. One of the most interesting of the letters written by Taylor describes his own opinion of the differences between his theories of continental movement and Wegener's hypothesis, and also H.S. Williams's biological views.