Henry Darwin Rogers, 1808-1866: American Geologist

By Patsy Gerstner | Go to book overview

7
A Capricious Master, 1840-1842

During the legislature's deliberations over the fate of the Pennsylvania survey, Rogers was preparing for the first meeting of the Association of American Geologists. When he came home from England in 1834, he thought that an organization like the British Association for the Advancement of Science was needed in the United States. He suggested the idea to Benjamin Silliman, but Silliman had urged caution, sensing that American science might not be ready for such an organization.1 The lack of an organization as a forum for geologists, however, began to be widely felt as the state surveys increased in number. New York, for example, had authorized a survey in 1836, and the state was divided into four districts, each with its own chief geologist. In addition, there was a paleontologist for the survey and numerous assistants. This arrangement necessitated frequent meetings between all of the New York geologists during which they were able to discuss issues of common concern and coordinate their activities. Still, they were isolated from other geologists and had almost no contact with Rogers in spite of the fact that the geology of the border areas between the two states was important to both.

While it might be supposed that some discussion would have developed naturally between the geologists of New York and Pennsylvania, this was not the case. Rogers knew Timothy Conrad, who had started with the New York survey as geologist in its first district and had become paleontologist for the whole survey in 1837. It was he who attacked Rogers so vehemently in 1839. If Rogers knew any of the other principals in New York--Lardner Vanuxem, William Mather, Ebenezer Emmons, or James Hall--the acquaintance was casual. James Hall, who joined the

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