Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


MARCHÉ II, Jordan D., 5415 Lost Woods Court, Oregon, WI 53575,

Massachusetts geologist Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) was the author of at least two works of major significance in the history of American geology. In 1830, Hitchcock was commissioned by that state’s government to conduct a geological survey, the first of its kind, in conjunction with a concurrent topographical survey. His Report on the Geology . . . of Massachusetts (1833) served as a model for the conduct of other state-supported surveys and became one of the “classical geological monographs” of the era. A geological map, accompanied by numerous cross-sections, tables, and correlations, adjoined the appendices. The volume contained thirteen lithographic plates, prepared from pencil sketches of landscapes and organic remains drawn by Hitchcock’s wife, Orra, one of few antebellum women scientific illustrators.

Hitchcock’s Ichnology of New England (1858) represented the culmination of his more than twenty years of research devoted to understanding the fossilized footprints of animals found in the strata of the Connecticut Valley. Because of their strong resemblance to the footmarks of modern birds, Hitchcock believed that the majority of bipedal trackways had been made by prehistoric birds. After his death, however, interpretations shifted to their being the former footprints of dinosaurs. Yet, late 20th-century discoveries of feathered dinosaurs, the recognition that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, and that birds (in one sense) are even living dinosaurs, has ironically turned the balance of understanding back toward Hitchcock’s original interpretation. His world-class collection of trackways has again been granted a place of prominence within Amherst College’s new natural history museum (2006). As their leading descriptor, Hitchcock’s Ichnology of New England remains a cornerstone of that discipline, even up to the present time.