Document Type



geology, history, Cornell College, W.H. Norton, N.A. Miner, H.E. Hendriks


The history of geology at Cornell College can be traced back almost to the college's beginnings. Though not the first to reach geology at Cornell, William Harmon Norton, more than any other person, shaped the Department of Geology and set it on its course of excellence. Born in 1856, the son of a Methodist minister, Norton developed an ardent interest in geology in his boyhood. A graduate of Cornell in Classics, Norton was hired by his alma mater in 1876 to reach Greek, bur his avocation was geology. He spent most of his spare time on weekends and during summers studying the rocks and fossils of eastern Iowa. Norton's avocation became his vocation in 1881 when he began reaching geology along with Greek. Nine years later he gave up classics and continued with geology. His skills as a keen observer, mapper, and writer were recognized by Samuel Calvin, director of the new Iowa Geological Survey, and he was hired in 1893 under the ride "Special Geology''. Norton authored several publications on the geology of eastern Iowa, including reports on the geology of Linn, Scott, Cedar and Bremer Countries. During the course of his research he recognized and described several new Silurian and Devonian formations, the names of which are currently in use. He is best known for his studies on the character and distribution of Iowa's underground water resources, with publications totaling nearly 2,000 pages. His service to the Iowa Geological Survey spanned 40 years and his tenure as a teacher at Cornell 67 years. Norton's legacy includes a college textbook, "Elements of Geology", written in collaboration with William Morris Davis, and 6,000 lantern slides.

Publication Date

December 1997

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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© Copyright 1997 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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