John Wesley Powell

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Powell, John Wesley


Born Mar. 24, 1834, in Mount Morris, N.Y.; died Sept. 23, 1902, in Haven, Me. American geologist and geomorphologist.

Educated at Illinois, Wheaton, and Oberlin colleges, Powell was a professor of geology at Illinois Wesleyan College in Bloomington from 1865 to 1868. He was one of the organizers of the US Geological Survey and served as its director from 1881 to 1894.

The first man to explore the Grand Canyon, Powell established the close relationship between the geological structure of the territory and the forms of relief. His major works played an important part in shaping the theoretical views of the American school of geomorphology, particularly those of W. Davis. Powell held that large stratigraphic units should be distinguished according to lithologic features rather than according to paleontological data.

Powell also studied the way of life of American Indians and proposed a classification of their languages.


Stegner, W. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. Boston, 1954.
Davis, W. M. Biographical Memoir of John Wesley Powell (1834–1902). Washington, D.C., 1915.
Hunt, C. B. “John Wesley Powell: His Influence on Geology.” Geotimes, 1969, issue 14, no. 5.


References in periodicals archive ?
Synopsis: In 1869, Civil War veteran and amputee Major John Wesley Powell led an expedition down the uncharted Colorado River through the then-nameless Grand Canyon.
In this book, he draws on primary sources as well as his own familiarity with the routes through which John Wesley Powell led expeditions (several ill-fated) on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869.
John Wesley Powell, then head of USGS, was particularly influential.
The Green River, which has deeper history with noted exploration first by John Wesley Powell in 1869, meets the Colorado River at the Confluence in Canyonlands National Park.
The second half is a more personal chronicle, as Davis describes his recreation of a journey made by John Wesley Powell during the first navigation of the Grand Canyon in 1869.
The next day I hit the road, heading northwest to Page for a trip on a houseboat on the man-made Lake Powell, named after one-armed Civil War hero and explorer John Wesley Powell.
Named in 1869 by explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell during the first documented trip through the Grand Canyon, the Great Unconformity has posed a longstanding puzzle and has been viewed - by Charles Darwin, among others - as a huge gap in the rock record and in our understanding of the Earth's history.
When John Wesley Powell made his renowned 1869 trip down the Colorado River, he described the river banks as "set with willows, box-elders, and cottonwood groves.
Eliott made his 200 mile trip in 1969 but he gives his history a little perspective by weaving in the adventure of John Wesley Powell retired Union Army Civil War major.
Legend has it that 19th-century explorer John Wesley Powell gave the crater its name because he thought its rim resembled a sunset.
Residents unveiled a new blue-and-yellow historic marker on June 13, 2008 for John Wesley Powell, best known for being the first explorer to navigate the length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Schama traces America's sense of optimism over their natural resources and the clashes with those who would conserve their riches, and tells the story of John Wesley Powell, the first man to navigate the Colorado River.