Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM
CLARENCE KING (1842–1901): CHIEF OF THE FORTIETH PARALLEL SURVEY AND FOUNDER OF THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Clarence King (1842–1901) studied geology at Yale and served as a volunteer on J. D. Whitney’s Geological Survey of California, for which he mapped the extent of Pleistocene glaciers in Yosemite Park. He is best known as ‘Geologist-in-Charge’ of the Fortieth Parallel Survey (1867–1872), on which some 100,000 square miles of the American West were topographically and geologically mapped, from California across the Rocky Mountains. J. D. Dana referred to the expedition reports as “the grandest exhibition of facts pertaining to an individual cast of mountain building in the geological literature.” In King’s orogenic framework he recognized effects of the later-named Sonoma, Sevier and Laramide orogenies, noting that folding recorded east-west crustal shortening. He delineated trends of Sevier and Laramide folds, and subsequent Tertiary normal faults that broke the crust into irregular blocks with considerable vertical displacement, reflecting east-west extension. Faulting was accompanied by rhyolitic, later basaltic, volcanism. He mapped the extent of Lakes Lahontan and Bonneville and Pleistocene alpine glaciation. King rejected strict Lyellian uniformitarianism and related Darwinian episodes of enhanced selection pressure to natural, accelerated, high-energy geologic processes. King served as the first director of the U. S. Geological Survey, a post he consented to occupy for one year in order to define its structure and set standards. His legacy is reflected in the career successes of geologists he appointed, six of whom became Geological Society of America presidents. He wrote popular accounts of the West, discourses on evolution, uniformitarianism, glaciation, experimental petrology, the earth’s antiquity, art and politics, and engaged in cattle ranching and mining consultation. He sought, but failed to achieve, a fortune in mining and, despite worldwide recognition for his early career accomplishments, died a poor man.