Henry Darwin Rogers, 1808-1866: American Geologist

By Patsy Gerstner | Go to book overview

Preface

Henry Darwin Rogers was one of the first professional geologists in the United States. He taught the subject, he practiced it, and he earned his living from it. As director, he led two of the earliest state geological surveys, those of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was also one of the largest. With a small group of assistants rarely exceeding twelve people, he covered approximately 45,000 square miles of Pennsylvania, much of it rugged and unexplored wilderness, in order to describe and explain the geological structure of the state and its potential for economic development.

The study of the geology of the United States had scarcely reached adolescence when Rogers began the survey of New Jersey in 1835 and of Pennsylvania in 1836. New Jersey held only minor interest for him, but in Pennsylvania, he was absorbed with the study of the Appalachian Mountains, which he saw as great folds of sedimentary rock. Rogers believed that an interpretation of these mountains would lead to an understanding of the dynamic processes that had shaped the earth. From his effort to explain the folds came the first uniquely American theory of mountain elevation.

Rogers was practical, freethinking, individualistic, introspective, and outspoken. A man of slight build and medium height, he had a characteristic dour expression that belied a gentle love of family and friends and a deep compassion for those who were oppressed. But Rogers was a man of many faces and moods, and while some people saw only the gentle side of his nature, others saw something else. Rogers was a perfectionist who demanded much of himself and others, often allowing his demands

-ix-

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