Southeastern Section - 60th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2011)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


DIEMER, John, Department of Geography & Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223,

As is clear from a study of his life, George William Featherstonhaugh “lived several lives” (White, 1969; Eyles, 1978; Berkeley and Berkeley, 1988). Born in London on April 9, 1780 Featherstonhaugh was raised in Scarborough, Yorkshire. As a young man he traveled through Europe for several years until he emigrated to the United States in 1806. There Featherstonhaugh met and married Sara Duane, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, and engaged in scientific farming for ~20 years. In 1826 he secured a charter for the first railroad in New York and then spent two years in Britain studying railroad technology and geology. In 1828 Featherstonhaugh lost his wife and a year later his house burned to the ground precipitating a move to Philadelphia where he established the Monthly Journal of Geology and Natural Science in 1831. From 1834 to 1838 Featherstonhaugh served as the first “United States Geologist”. Shortly after, he was appointed a Boundary Commissioner by the British government to survey the Maine-New Brunswick boundary in 1839. From 1844 to his death on September 28, 1866 Featherstonhaugh was the British Consul for the District of Seine, France. During his tenure as U.S. Geologist, Featherstonhaugh made several extensive surveys, including one through the southern states as far as the Red River of Arkansas (Featherstonhaugh, 1835, Geological Report of an Examination Made in 1834 of the Elevated Country Between the Missouri and Red Rivers). Because of his boundless energy, wide reading, excellent memory, experience, and friendship with leading geologists, Featherstonhaugh made a good first attempt at describing the geology of the regions he visited. His efforts did much to inform interested parties, both here and abroad, about the geology of large areas of the United States.