Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/31

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27
GEOLOGICAL METHODS IN EARLIER DAYS

and afterwards he had to find the train. The conditions made for rapid movement when at work, for keenness of observation, for quickness of perception, for promptness in decision as well as for error in conclusion. The geologist learned to follow the track of the train, but the close watch for crushed grass or for fleeting footprints in sand prevented him from seeing important features during his hasty ride.

In comparing the work of the earlier days with that performed more recently, under better conditions and with the aid of the earlier reconnaissances, I have been astonished that so much, and the word is used advisedly, has endured the test of friendly as well as of unfriendly criticism. It is surprising that geologists, slung about as bobs on the tail of a topographer’s kite in a wholly unknown region, succeeded so well in gaining knowledge of the general structure; they failed only where they attempted detailed description or discussion. Maps were prepared slowly after the season closed and when the geologist received them, a year or more afterwards, they were a mystery. Streams followed wholly unsuspected directions; localities were in relations very different from those conceived when the work was in progress; in critical places the map was altogether unlike that drawn in the geologist’s mind. It was impossible to bring the imagined into harmony with the real, so that some portions were colored on the basis of a mental reconnaissance. Geologists attached to the Hayden survey were at somewhat less disadvantage because the work was primarily geological; but they were hampered very seriously in other directions. In those early days the importance of surveys was not recognized; in order to secure appropriations it was necessary to produce bulky reports referring to great areas; there was no time for careful work, yet several geologists associated with Hayden made remarkable studies and solved intricate problems. The Powell survey, because of the Major’s marvelous skill in manipulation of Congressional committees, was hampered much less, and the work done by Gilbert and by Dutton is of lasting importance.

Geological surveys in individual states were begun very early but, except in Massachusetts, they were short lived and on a small scale. The great surveys of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia were begun in 1836. At that time, there were practically no geologists in the country; of those known as mining engineers, not more than five or six had received any geological training. The geological surveys were entrusted mostly to young men; Rogers of Virginia was 32; his brother in Pennsylvania was 28; in New York, Mather was 32, Vanuxem was 44, Emmons, 37 and Hall, 25. Among the assistants on the Pennsylvania survey were Lesley, 20, Hodge, 21, Jackson, 23, Haldeman, 24. The country in much of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, even in New York, was little better than a wilderness, eighty years ago; railroads