Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/32

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28
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

were practically unknown and there were few graded roads; aneroids were mere toys and Locke had not invented his pocket level; there were no instruments except those of cumbrous size; boiling point thermometers were tried but they proved worthless; there were few maps and such as did exist were misleading. The young men, without previous training, without instruments of any sort, except a compass, and without maps, were thrown into the unexplored region. It has been my privilege to reexamine much of the area in which they labored. How they obtained their results passes comprehension; they carried the Bituminous section in Pennsylvania and Virginia with wondrous accuracy, though at times there were intervals of miles in which no exposures existed except along streams flowing through the woodland. It is easy now to discover inaccuracies in their work, for men can examine it, so to speak, with a microscope. These early geologists, for the most part, were men of gigantic intellect and noble integrity.

With the close of these surveys in 1842 to 1845, extended work came to an end. Some organizations were continued in a moderate way, but all except those of Illinois and New York were broken up by the Civil War, and there was no revival until the later sixties. Meanwhile the condition existing in 1836 had returned. Not more than 30 men survived who had been trained in field work; some of these had gone into special work as mining engineers, others were in enfeebled health, and others still were in positions less onerous and more remunerative than survey work. Probably not more than ten men were available in 1869, and several of those were attached to surveys not interrupted by the Civil War.

The Ohio survey, reorganized in 1869, had as its director the veteran Newberry, who, as a young physician, had entered the United States service during the Pacific Railroad explorations. As a lad he had collected fossil plants from the roof of his father’s coal mine in Ohio, and in later years he had studied paleobotany under Brongniart in Paris. His work as geologist, botanist and zoologist on the Pacific Railroad explorations was brilliant, but in importance was far excelled by his later geological work on the Ives and Macomb expeditions. Of his assistants on the Ohio survey, only one could be regarded as a professional geologist; the others were amateurs. Of the aids and co-workers, not more than three had done any field work and the most of us were wholly inexperienced. We were expected to succeed without help, as our predecessors had done; an area was assigned to each man and he was told to get at it. The state maps were good, but on a small scale; the general structure had been worked out by the Mather survey long before, and both Newberry and Whittlesey had published small outline maps; but, as far as details were concerned, the region was a terra incognita.