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Harry Fielding Reid papers

Identifier: MS-0367

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Scope and Contents

The collection of American geologist, Harry Fielding Reid, consists of a small group of his professional writings and correspondence, personal items, reprints, and a large selection of photographs and negatives. The one part of Reid's scientific career represented in the collection is glaciology. Papers and photographs related to his study of glaciers, particularly in Alaska, illustrate his attention to that subject. The collection does not include any materials related to Reid's teaching career nor does it include any information from Reid's field work or researches in seismology.

Reid's earliest scientific interest was in the study of glaciers, and as a member of the Commission Internationale des Glaciers, he contributed many annual reports and articles on the subject. Some reports [1913-15, 1932] and correspondence with the commission (1931-1933) are part of the collection. The reports are in typescript with annotations. A small amount of correspondence with fellow scientists deals with their mutual interest in glacier research. Dr. Reid's field work included photographing the mountainous and glacial areas, and many photographs are included although not all are identified.

Of interest too are the nearly one hundred glass negatives from photographs of glacial regions (mostly Alaska) studied by Reid. Some negatives are of personal views.

Reid's holographic account of mountaineering in Europe (1894), his diplomas and awards, and many family photographs are among the personal items in the collection. Other personal items include four diaries of Mary Elizabeth Gittings (Reid's mother-in-law) who traveled in Europe, 1884-1886. Reprints of scientific articles complete the collection.


  • Creation: 1894 - 1944


Conditions Governing Access

The glass negatives housed in boxes 2-6 of the collection are stored onsite in Special Collections. The rest of the collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Harry Fielding Reid was professor of geology at The Johns Hopkins University and a distinguished geologist known for his contributions in the fields of seismology and glaciology. He was born in Baltimore, MD May 18, 1859, and his earliest schooling was completed in Lausanne Switzerland, a country that may have influenced his great interest in mountains and glaciers. Reid returned to Baltimore to enter the newly-founded Hopkins where he received his bachelor's degree in 1880 and his doctorate in 1885. He taught at the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland and the University of Chicago before returning to Hopkins in 1889 as professor of geological physics. In 1911, his title was changed to Professor of Dynamic Geology and Geography, a position he held until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1930.

Apart from his academic work, Reid was known for his many scientific achievements. Because of his proficiency in both physics and geology, Reid has been recognized as the first American geophysicist. His work in science fell into two main categories: the study of earthquakes and the study of glaciers. Reid's published writings between 1892 and 1907 deal exclusively with the subject of glaciers. His first glacial study was an extended survey of the Muir Glacier (Alaska) in 1890. With a team of five others, he mapped the glacier area of over 900 square miles. His research continued for several years, and his findings were published in a paper on the Glacier Bay area of Alaska in 1896. (16th Annual Report., U. S. Geological Survey). He was interested in the problems of glacial accumulation, motion, and wastage. During succeeding expeditions, he discovered and named several glaciers in Alaska including those named for Daniel Gilman and Johns Hopkins. In Switzerland where Reid also did field work, the Reid Ridges at Mont Forno are named for him.

Reid's interest in seismological studies resulted from his service as a member of the California State Earthquake Investigation Commission, a commission formed to study the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906. From his research in the field, Reid developed what is termed the elastic rebound theory of earthquake. The theory, which Reid described in his 1908 report to the Commission, is regarded as his major contribution to science. In the same report, he presented his theory of the seismograph, the first complete treatment in the English language. Beginning in 1906, Reid represented the United States at the International Seismological Association for many years.

Reid was married to Edith Gittings, the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Gittings (d. 1900). Edith Gittings Reid (1863- ) was the author of biographical studies of Sir William Osler, William Sidney Thayer, and Woodrow Wilson. They were the parents of Francis Fielding Reid and Doris Fielding Reid. Harry Fielding Reid died in Baltimore, June 19, 1944.


3.16 Cubic Feet (1 record center carton, 5 full-sized letter boxes, 1 over-sized folder)

Language of Materials



Harry Fielding Reid was professor of geology at Johns Hopkins University and a geologist known for his contributions in the fields of seismology and glaciology. The collection consists of a small group of his professional writings and correspondence, personal items, reprints, and a large selection of photographs and negatives spanning 1894-1944.

Other Finding Aids

An index is available to identify subjects of the slides.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the University by Mrs. E. R. Pfieffer, granddaughter of H. F. Reid, in September, 1994.


The Accession Number is 94-95.5.


  • California. State Earthquake Investigation Commission. The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906. Washington, D.C., Carnegie Inst. of Washington, 1908-10.
  • Pettijohn, F. J. A Century of Geology at The Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1988.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in September 1994.

Guide to the Harry Fielding Reid papers
Joan Grattan
September 1994
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA