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

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM


NEWELL, Julie, Social and International Studies, Southern Polytechnic State University, 1100 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30060, jnewell@spsu.edu

Michael Tuomey (1805-1857) was an Irish immigrant, but received his geological education and spent his entire career as a geologist in the United States. For the most part, the pattern of that career exemplifies the challenges, frustrations, and compromises faced by the men who supported themselves and their families through the application of their geologic knowledge in the period before the American Civil War.

Tuomey was born in Ireland in 1805, and began his career as an educator before immigrating to the United States in 1830. He earned a Bachelor of Natural Science degree at Rensselaer in 1835. Over the next decade, he patched together a string of teaching and other positions, became active in the American geological community, and began a family. He served as South Carolina State Geologist (1843-1846) and Alabama State Geologist (1849-1857).

Tuomey's career clearly illustrates patterns that differed only in their particulars in the lives of American geologists in the 1830s, ‘40s, and 50s. These include the sources of his training in science, the patchwork nature of employment, the relative ease with which individuals could become part of the network of American natural scientists, the importance of mentors and colleagues, and the critical role of state surveys in facilitating scientific work and providing remuneration for geologists. He was also typical in the frustrations he faced in dealing with the general politics of state surveys and the more particular politics that could arise when boosters and promoters didn't approve of particular survey results.

Tuomey was also an exception. By the 1830s, the American geological community was almost entirely native born. Tuomey was more deeply involved in educational pursuits than most geologists of his generation, and far less involved in the private consulting that usually rounded out a geologist's employment options. And he conducted his scientific career almost entirely in southern states. But overall, Tuomey is far more “exemplar” than “exception.”