Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM
THE PROCESS OF DOING GEOMORPHOLOGY IN THE SPIRIT OF DUSTY RITTER
Geomorphology is a science of discovery that is defined by the attitudes of those for whom the search for Earth’s truths is the sole motivation for inquiry. This attitude is not learned from books but from examples provided by mentors and colleagues. As an undergraduate Dale F. (“Dusty”) Ritter worked with John H. Moss (1918-1977) at Franklin and Marshall College; he subsequently did his graduate work at Princeton with Sheldon Judson (1918-1999). Both Moss and Judson had done their graduate work at Harvard with Kirk Bryan (1888-1950), who had done his graduate work at Yale with H. E. Gregory (1869-1952). Gregory was student of William Morris Davis (1850-1934) at Harvard, and Davis was a Harvard student of Nathaniel Southgate Shaler (1841-1906), who had been a student of Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). The key mentors to Agassiz were Alexander von Humbolt (1769-1859) and Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). Such is the illustrious heritage that Dusty was able to pass along to his many students, and one story will serve to illustrate its impact. With Moss as his undergraduate advisor, Dusty did a thesis on glacial geology, employing an array of measurements: topography, lithology and textures, heavy minerals, and till fabrics. The work was subsequently published while Dusty was attending Princeton, where met Professor Paul MacClintock, one of Americal’s most senior and eminent Quaternary geologists. The evidence assembled by the young undergraduate made a strong case that a glacial substage defined by MacClintock was in error. Confronted in the field by the evidence, MacClintock acknowledged the latter’s strength and observed that all science is a progress report. This is a central tenant of science as a collective enterprise in which the human concepts that are proposed to match nature must always be held as fallible. What we say about the Earth with our theories and models is always secondary to what Earth says to us with its rocks, landforms, and structures.