Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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A Brief History of the Department

During World War II, the need for applications of geology and geophysics in photo intelligence, terrain analysis, engineering, and underwater warfare suddenly became obvious. During the war years, the U.S Geological Survey turned the nation inside out to find vital raw materials, and by the war's end, the scientific field of geology had come of age.

In 1946, President Distler of Franklin and Marshall College decided to establish a Department of Geology. He contacted Dr. Richard (Pete) Foose, the Director of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, for advice on how to proceed.

Dr. Foose had been an undergraduate chemistry major at F&M before going on to a masters degree at Northwestern and a PhD at Johns Hopkins in geology. Never one to think small, Dr. Foose recommended the immediate creation of a full-blown, four-person geology department capable of covering all the fields in this newly expanded science. 

President Distler was impressed with the man and his recomendations, but not with the scope and costs involved in implementing the recomendations. He offered Dr. Foose the opportunity to build a more modest department. Dr. Foose, however, held firm, and ultimately President Distler agreed to this ambitious and rapid growth, including the costs of expensive new equipment and vehicles.

Dr. Foose's first selection for a new faculty member in mineralogy was a promising new graduate of Harvard University, Dr. Jacob (Jake) Freedman . Dr. Freedman was appointed in the fall of 1947. The next year saw the appointment of Dr. John Moss with his just-completed Harvard dissertation on glaciation in the Wind River Mountains, and Dr. George Biemsderfer, an F&M physics major who had just completed his M.S. at Columbia University on the geophysics of the Peach Bottom Slate Belt. In the fall of 1948, with its original four faculty members in place, the Geology Department officially opened.

Over the next half century the Geology Department excelled in its mission to provide geologic training, granting hundreds of degrees in Geology and earning a reputation as one of the best undergraduate geology programs in the nation. Many graduates went on for advanced degrees and distinguished careers in geology.

The Department was renamed Geosciences in 2000 to reflect the greater emphasis on ancillary fields like geochemistry and geophysics.

The Geoscience Founders Society was established in 2002 to connect the Department with the work experience of its alumni and friends, to rekindle the camaraderie and spirit of its alumni, and to provide support and encouragement to the faculty and students as they continue the long tradition of excellence in Franklin & Marshall geology,

In 2003 the Department added two new majors; Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies, while continuing to offer the Geosciences major. The Department also added Geosciences and Environmental Studies minors. The name of the Department was changed to the Department of Earth and Environment to reflect its broader focus.