Recognition of the power of rivers to carve landscapes transformed geology and geomorphology in the late nineteenth century. Wide acceptance of this concept—then known as “fluvialism”—owes to many factors and people, several associated with exploration of western North America. Especially famous are the federal geographic and geologic surveys of the US Southwest with John Wesley Powell and Grove Karl Gilbert, which produced key insights regarding river processes. Yet earlier and less-known surveys also engaged young geologists embarking on tremendously influential careers, particularly the 1838–1842 US Exploring Expedition with James Dwight Dana and the 1853–1855 railroad surveys including John Strong Newberry. Informed but little constrained by European and British perspectives on landscape formation, Dana and Newberry built compelling cases for the erosive power of rivers, largely from observations in the US Pacific Northwest. They seeded the insights of the later southwestern surveys, Dana by his writings and station at Yale and his hugely influential Manual of Geology, published in 1863, and Newberry by becoming the first geologist to explore the dramatic river-carved canyons of the Southwest and then a forceful proponent of the federal surveys spotlighting the erosional landscapes. Newberry also gave Gilbert his start as a geologist. Although Dana and Newberry are renowned early American geologists, their geomorphic contributions were overshadowed by the works of Powell, Gilbert, and William Morris Davis. Yet Dana and Newberry were the first ardent American proponents of fluvialism, providing strong roots that in just a few decades transformed western geology, roots nourished in large measure by the geologically fertile landscapes of the US Pacific Northwest.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||James Dwight Dana and John Strong Newberry in the US Pacific Northwest: The roots of American fluvialism|
|Series title||Journal of Geology|
|Publisher||University of Chicago Press|
|Contributing office(s)||Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center|