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Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-170

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

While the records of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences range in date from 1883 to 1988, they are not uniformly representative of the various activities of the department over that period. The earliest records, most of which date from before the turn of the century, are largely field notebooks from geological surveys (the bulk of which were kept by George Huntington Williams), catalogs of mineral specimens, and a few student records; there are few records dealing with administrative or curricular matters from the early period. The more recent records are more representative of the wide scope of departmental activities, with the post-1960 period being best represented. Types of records include correspondence, course materials, notices, memoranda between faculty and administrators, reports and student and faculty records. The record group is subdivided as follows:

Series 1: Publications, 1935-1988
Series 2: Field Notebooks, 1883-1984
Series 3: Departmental Records, 1891-1983
Series 4: Departmental Reports, 1925-1967
Series 5: Catalogs of Mineral Specimens, c. 1880-c. 1940
Series 6: George Huntington Williams, 1886-1894
Series 7: Faculty Records, 1935-1987
Subseries 1: Permanent Faculty Tenure, 1950-1986
Subseries 2: Visiting Faculty Tenure, 1961-1987
Subseries 3: Faculty Correspondence, 1935-1948, 1975-1982
Series 8: Extra-Departmental Records, 1968-1983
Series 9: Extra-University Records, 1966-1979
Series 10: Francis Pettijohn, 1883-1989
Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1934-1946
Subseries 2: Correspondence, 1923-1989
Subseries 3: Geology History Sources, 1935-1987
Subseries 4: Subject Files, 1923-1987
Series 11: Grants and Contracts, 1961-1977
Series 12: Student Records, 1893-1985
Series 13: Website, 2015 - Ongoing


  • Creation: 1883-1988
  • Creation: 2015 - Ongoing


Use Restrictions

Administrative records in series 3, 7 (subseries 3), 8, 9 and 11 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in series 12, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in series 7 (subseries 1 and 2), are also restricted. For details, see Regulations Governing Access to Restricted Records, at the front of each binder.


Instruction in Geology at the Johns Hopkins University began as early as 1881 when Dr. Harmon N. Morse of the Chemistry Department offered a course in mineralogy. In 1883 the University appointed George Huntington Williams as Professor of Mineralogy, and in 1885 he formed a one-man Department of Geology. William Bullock Clark joined the staff as instructor of paleontology in 1887, and in 1888 Geology officially became one of the "chief branches of study" at the University. Professor Williams, a pioneer in his field, established a department which many considered to be the leading Geology Department in the United States. He amassed one of the finest collections of mineral specimens in the country and did much of his work for and with the U.S. Geological Survey.

After Williams's early death in 1894, Clark was promoted to full professor and chairman of the department. Harry Fielding Reid and Edward Bennet Mathews were appointed as instructors. In 1896 the state of Maryland created the Maryland Geologic Survey, and placed it under the direction of a commission composed of the Governor, the Comptroller, the President of the Johns Hopkins University, and the President of the State Agriculture College. The University, having the only appropriate apparatus in the state, offered to house the Survey on its campus. Clark was appointed State Geologist and Mathews was appointed Assistant State Geologist. Reid was put in charge of the Highway Division, created in 1898. This arrangement was mutually advantageous to the state and the University. The graduate students were able to gain practical experience in the field, and the members of the staff received a salary from both the state and the University. The state benefited from scientific guidance and the use of libraries and laboratories at a fraction of the cost of an independent operation. The Survey, under Clark's guidance, surveyed the territory of Maryland, prepared maps of the territory, studied the mineral resources of the state, prepared collections of mineral specimens, helped train young geologists and surveyors, and redrew the Mason-Dixon line. By this manner the state was able to relate trained minds and resources directly to human welfare.

Clark emphasized a broad curriculum for graduate study, rather than specialization, as was popular in some other parts of the country. Although this policy brought some criticism, the department always maintained that Geology was inter-related with many fields, so that a geologist's research would necessarily lead him in many directions. In the long run, the faculty contended, their graduates would prove their worth. The records show that they supplied statistics to prove this, and there is no doubt that Hopkins Geology was still one of the best. They were seriously challenged, however, by Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Yale and California.

By 1910 the department had six faculty members, one of the finest mineral collections and geological libraries in the country, and a desperate need for more room. In 1911, Clark was offered the chairmanship of the Geology Department at Harvard. In order to keep him at Hopkins, the University offered a substantial package including increased salaries for all the members of the department and a promise of a new geological laboratory at the new Homewood Campus. For the next three years Clark and Mathews worked with architects on the design of the building, but the University finally had to postpone it for lack of funds. When the University moved to the Homewood Campus in 1916, the Geology Department and the State Geological Survey were "temporarily" housed in the Civil Engineering Building (now called Latrobe Hall). For the next sixty-five years the department would seek more space.

Clark died in 1917. In keeping with tradition, Mathews became both chairman of the Department and State Geologist. Edward Wilber Berry, professor of paleontology, became Assistant State Geologist. Under this arrangement, the close working relationship between the Geology Department and the State Geological Survey continued to benefit both.

As the science of Geology developed, the scope of its application widened, especially in the field of economic geology (mining, etc.), in which Hopkins became an early leader. But it became increasingly difficult for Hopkins to compete as other universities greatly expanded their programs. By 1932, the budget for the Geology Department was less than half that of the other major universities. The number of faculty members varied from five to eight but it was always lower than the other major geology departments. The undergraduate program was in such a poor state that the department accepted only about one Hopkins A.B. per year into their own graduate program. Mathews warned President Ames that Hopkins could not hope to maintain its high standing in Geology if the department did not get its own building and adequate expansion of staff and equipment. Nevertheless, although the department awarded fewer degrees than the other major universities, Hopkins graduates continued to prove themselves among the best.

Professor Berry, while retaining his position in the Geology Department and the State Geological Survey, became Dean in 1929 and Provost in 1935. He retired in 1942. Professor Mathews retired as chairman of the department in 1939 and as State Geologist in 1943. He was succeeded in both positions by Dr. Joseph T. Singewald. In 1941 there was a reorganization of the Survey, which became the State Department of Geology, Mines, and Water Resources. The new department came under the direction of a new five-member commission, of which the President of the Johns Hopkins University was no longer a member, although he still took an active interest in the work of the department. There was still support in the state legislature and the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland to move the Survey to the University of Maryland at College Park, which at the time did not even have a Department of Geology. President Bowman and Singewald, however, were able to impress upon the state the great savings in keeping the Survey located at the Johns Hopkins University. In 1945, Mathews died, after forty-seven years with the Survey and over fifty years with the Department of Geology.

After the retirement of Mathews and Berry, Singewald had trouble filling their positions with qualified men. Nevertheless, a substantial improvement was made in the undergraduate program in the 1940s. During Singewald's years as chairman, the department reaffirmed Clark's policy of generalization rather than specialization in the curriculum. Singewald advocated a broad range of science courses for the undergraduate, and a broad range of Geology courses for the graduate student. The success of this method, he contended, was demonstrated by the accomplishments of the department's alumni.

In the late 1940s the University began to offer courses in fields related to Geology. Beginning in 1943, a few courses in Geography were offered, and in 1948 the Isaiah Bowman School of Geography was established. In 1948 the Chesapeake Bay Institute was established and Dr. Donald W. Pritchard was appointed Director in 1949. The staff of the Institute offered courses in Oceanography. In 1952 the Department of Oceanography was established with Pritchard as chairman, but the department offered a degree only at the graduate level. The senior research staff members of the Institute held academic appointments in the new department, but the Institute existed as a separate entity.

In 1952, Singewald retired as chairman of the Geology Department but retained his position as State Geologist. Dr. Ernst Cloos, who came to the University in 1931, became chairman of the department. By this time, a greater emphasis was being placed on laboratory work rather than field work. As a result, new fields such as geochemistry, geophysics and biogeology became increasingly important. At the same time, the links between geology and such traditional fields as geography, oceanography, meteorology, fluid mechanics and environmental engineering had become more significant. Cloos wanted to develop these relationships and rebuild the department so that it might regain some of the prominence that it had lost. He proposed an Earth Science Institute which would loosely bind together all the departments and faculty members related to Earth Science, and the acquisition of several new faculty members both at the core of Geology and in the new fields. The administration approved his plan in general, but no immediate action was taken. In 1955, P. Stewart Macaulay, Provost of the University, proposed a new Department of Earth Sciences, but again no official action was taken. Some close cooperation was established, however, between members of the faculty of Geology, Geography, Chemistry and Physics. Cloos made better progress in rebuilding the faculty; in 1952 he got two of the men he wanted: A. C. Waters and Francis Pettijohn, both well-established geologists. Shortly thereafter new men in geophysics and geochemistry were appointed. This departmental reorganization restored Hopkins's reputation of having one of the best Geology Departments in the country, though Cloos hoped for a department "second-to-none." In 1953, the department acquired "Camp Singewald" in western Maryland. Since then the camp has been used for various projects and summer work. In 1955, the senior staff of the Department of Oceanography were moved to Maryland Hall from their field location near Annapolis.

In 1961 Singewald became ill and in 1962 retired as State Geologist, after nineteen years of service to the state and over sixty years of association with the Geology Department. Cloos became acting State Geologist without pay, but he did not want to retain that position because he had reached retirement age and wanted to devote all his time to research and teaching. He retired as chairman of the Geology Department in January of 1963, but remained a full member of the staff. Pettijohn became chairman of the Geology Department. A major problem became what to do with the State Department of Geology, Mines, and Water Resources. A member of the faculty of the Geology Department had always previously occupied the position of State Geologist, but now none could be found to accept the position, partly because the responsibilities of the state department had grown so that a full time person was needed. In addition, the state department was in such poor shape that Cloos recommended it be reorganized with a substantial increase in budget and staff, or be moved from the Hopkins Campus, since the space it occupied in Latrobe Hall was badly needed for the Geology Department. Happily, Cloos, President Milton Eisenhower, Macaulay and others were able to impress upon Governor Tawes the importance of the work of the state department. The budget was substantially increased, new staff positions were obtained, additional space for books and maps was acquired down- town, and Dr. Kenneth N. Weaver, Hopkins Ph.D. 1954, was named State Geologist in October 1963. They remained in Latrobe Hall and continued to cooperate and consult with members of the Geology Department, and to share maps and libraries. The staff, budget, and facilities of the state department were expanded still further in the following years. In 1964, the name of the department was changed back to the Maryland Geological Survey.

Under Pettijohn the Geology Department continued to expand and began to feel an acute shortage of space. With eight to ten faculty members, however, they were still the smallest of the major Departments of Geology in the country. In 1964, Macaulay Hall was completed and the Department of Oceanography took over that building. In 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Institute was placed under the Oceanography Department, though there was little change in staff or administration. Cloos retired from teaching in 1967 and was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1968. He continued to conduct research and teach an occasional course until he died in 1974 after forty-three years with the Geology Department.

In 1968, the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences was created, with Dr. Owen M. Phillips, professor of geophysical mechanics, as chairman. The new department was created at the urging of the various faculty members who insisted that because of new discoveries and increasing inter-relationships between fields, study in isolation was no longer adequate. This was consistent with the Geology Department's long standing policy of broad education rather than specialization. The department was formed by the merger of the Geology Department and the Oceanography Department, with the addition of faculty members from the departments of Geography, Environmental Engineering, Mechanics, and Statistics, as well as some new appointments. The new department offered majors in Geology, Oceanography, Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geobiology, and Planetary Physics. The faculty numbered around twenty and increased in later years. The department was fragmented because it was in different buildings, and it still needed more space, but it offered a much better program than before, especially for undergraduates.

In 1969, for a brief period, Dr. George S. Benton became chairman of the department but resigned that position to become Dean of the Arts and Sciences and later Vice President of the University. Phillips remained chairman. In 1969, the Maryland Geological Survey was formally placed under the State Department of Natural Resources, but remained on the Hopkins Campus. In 1973, the Chesapeake Bay Institute split from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and became a separate research institute, though it still cooperated with the department. In 1976, the Oceanography staff moved from Macaulay Hall to Latrobe Hall and the Survey moved from Latrobe to Merryman. Today, the Survey, now located off campus on St. Paul Street, has a staff of nearly fifty and still maintains close ties with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

In 1978, Phillips retired as chairman of the department and was replaced by Dr. George W. Fisher. In 1980, the University finally began construction of a new Earth and Planetary Sciences building, which was completed in 1982 and named Olin Hall. In 1983, Fisher was named Dean of Arts and Sciences, and was succeeded as departmental chairman by Hans P. Eugster. Eugster was succeeded as chairman in 1987 by Steven M. Stanley, who served only until 1988, when Bruce Marsh was named chairman.

French, John C.
A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1946.
Geology Department, The Johns Hopkins University. Newsletters, 1935-1978.
The Johns Hopkins University. Circulars. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1881-present.
Maryland Geological Survey. Annual Reports. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, vol. 1, 1897.
The Ferdinand Hamburger Archives of The Johns Hopkins University. Record Group Number 02.001, Office of the President, Series 1, Numerical Subject files, file number 49 (Geology Department), 1905-1963.


21.44 Cubic Feet (11 record center cartons, 18 letter size document boxes, 2 letter half-size document boxes, 1 legal size document boxes)

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



Dr. Ernst Cloos transferred one folder of correspondence. Professor Emeritus Francis J. Pettijohn transferred two binders of departmental records and 0.5 cubic foot of his history notes. The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences transferred the remaining materials.

Accession Number

77.95, 79.41, 79.147, 80.24, 80.31, 81.44, 86.53, 88.19, 89.8, 89.19, 91.19, 92.10

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by R. Wayne Kimball, James Knighton, Sean DiGiovanna, Aravinda Pillalamarri, and Charlene Mendoza.

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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