Paper No. 98-6
Presentation Time: 9:10 AM
MIGNON TALBOT (1869-1950), GEOLOGIST
Mignon Talbot was born in Iowa in 1869; her mother was the daughter of a country doctor and her father the superintendant of the state school for deaf children. She attended college at Ohio State University from 1888 ton 1892, where Edward Orton taught her geology and encouraged her to continue in the discipline. She taught physical geography in the Columbus Ohio schools for several years, and enrolled as a graduate student at Yale University in 1903, receiving her doctorate in paleontology in 1904 with a dissertation on the Helderbergian crinoids of New York State. Mount Holyoke College hired her as instructor in geology in 1904 and she taught there until her retirement in 1935 (she died in 1950), rising through the ranks to professor and department chair in geology. In 1929 she became chair and professor in the combined departments of geology and geography. She devoted skill and energy to building the college’s museum collection of Triassic footprints, invertebrate fossils, and minerals, all of which were destroyed in a fire, which also destroyed Williston Hall in 1916, but which she rebuilt from scratch. As a teacher, Talbot was aware of the limited options for her students in the earth sciences, and she stressed the cultural usefulness and reasoning abilities of the field in her classes. As a paleontologist, she is best known for her discovery and description of Podokesaurus holyokensis, in 1911, a small dinosaur she found in a boulder in glacial formations near the college in South Hadley, and which to this day is the subject of controversy regarding both its relationship to other locally known dinosaurs as well as the age of its occurrence.