Article by Dr. John K. Pope - c.1990
Instruction in geology has had a long history at Miami. Geological information apparently was first included in a course taught by the Rev. J. W. Scott on "natural history" in 1835. In 1845, Rev. Scott was replaced by Professor N. Stoddard (for whom Stoddard Hall is named) who incorporated geology into a diffusely-focused "English and Science Course." Professor Stoddard founded the Science Department as its first head in 1867. He helped to secure the first systematic collection of geological specimens, the fossil "cabinet" of the Rev. David Christy, the acquisition of which is dated (in various documents) as 1849, 1858, and 1861. This Christy Collection, following an excursion of many years to the Field Museum in Chicago, remains as the patriarch of the many collections currently in the Limper Geology Museum. Professor Stoddard was succeeded by the Rev. Henry S. Osborn in 1870. Osborn apparently greatly expanded the natural history collections, but he left Miami when the doors of "Old Miami" closed in 1873.Geology at "New Miami"
Miami reopened in 1885, the "New Miami" of the alma mater. In that year, Joseph Francis James, son of the renowned amateur fossil collector Uriah Pierson James of Cincinnati, assumed the professorship of natural history. During his five years here, James published many articles, some with his father, on local fossils and strata. James was dismissed for the teaching of evolution, a fate met by other geologists, including Edward Orton, in those decades. Geology was resurrected in 1906 with the appointment of R. H. Burke who lasted only until 1909. Burke's replacement was the young William H. Shideler.
William H. Shideler (B.A., Miami 1907), from Seven Mile in Butler County, Ohio (the family home is in the northeast corner of the intersection of Route 127 and Route 73), received his Ph.D. degree from Cornell University in 1910, under the direction of the eminent biostratigrapher and student of Louis Agassiz, Henry Shaler Williams. Shideler was invited to join Miami beginning in 1910 as a member of the zoology faculty. In this capacity, he taught courses in general geology, paleontology, and organic evolution.
Geology up through the years of J. F. James had been taught in the hall called "Old Egypt." This building, which burned in 1898, had been near the west end of the quadrangle framed by the present Harrison Hall, Alumni Library, and King Library, near the present site of John Locke's telescope plinth. Brice Hall (1892-1970), named for U. S. Senator Calvin Brice, had been erected to house the sciences, namely chemistry, physics, botany and zoology. This was the building in which Shideler first organized his office and in which he remained until his retirement in 1957."Doc" Shideler
"Doc" Shideler was called upon to establish the Department of Geology in 1920. In 1914, chemistry left Brice Hall; in 1928, both botany and physics moved, and in 1950, zoology entered new quarters in Upham Hall, leaving geology in sole possession of the building.Shideler Hall planning
Planning for Shideler Hall began in 1962, and the building was completed in the fall of 1966. The actual moving of equipment, collections, and the library and faculty offices was accomplished in November and December, with classes first opening in the new building in January 1967. Completion of the building was celebrated with The Primitive Earth Symposium in 1968, and the anniversary of the first decade of the building was remembered belatedly with The Primitive Earth Revisited symposium in 1979. Shideler was largely responsible for amassing the extensive fossil collection moved into the new building and now the core of the collection in the storage and display facilities of the new Limper Geology Museum. The fine geology library, which occupied spacious quarters, was removed from Shideler Hall in 1978 and placed in the Brill Science Library in Hughes Hall.Miami has a field station
The field station that the Department of Geology was eventually to operate was begun as a joint venture of Knox College and Cornell College in 1940 at Dubois, Wyoming. In the Interval of 1940-46 the cooperative group was joined by the University of Mississippi and Syracuse University, and finally, in 1947, by Miami University. During the following five years, these other universities withdrew from the group largely as a result of indecision and conflict over course content and credit hours for the field courses. By 1952, Miami was left to operate the Field Station alone, which it has done to the present. The first bachelor's degree in geology was awarded to Paul H. Dunn in 1922. In 1931, Ralph T. Strete received the first M.S. degree, although the next M.S. degrees were not awarded until 16 years later, to John Brand and King-Chih Yang. The Ph.D. program, in cooperation with Ohio State University, was initiated in 1962 with the first degree recipient being Taki Negas in 1966. Our first independent Ph.D. in geology was received by George E. Distler in 1972. The M.A. degree, without thesis, was developed in 1987 and first awarded in 1988.
Over the years, the department has had five* Chairs. Shideler founded the department in 1920 and remained head until 1957, when Karl E. Limper succeeded him. David M. Scotford became chair in 1960, when Karl Limper became Dean of Arts & Science. A. Dwight Baldwin took over from Scotford in 1979 and retained the position until 1987. In 1990, our then-present chair, Maryellen Cameron, joined the faculty. The faculty of the Department of Geology has been remarkably stable over its 68-year history. Click here for a list of faculty, showing their dates of employment and highest academic rank.
*As of this date, 4/2004, this number is eight. Dr. John Hughes followed Cameron and was succeeded by Dr. Mark Boardman. Dr. William K. Hart is the current chair.