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 ?
In 1869 a one-armed civil war veteran, Major Powell, braved the rapids of the Grand Canyon.
Finally the twins are brought back to the train station by the suspendered Major Powell, and their parents ask how they liked the tour.
Evelyn, a "resting" actor, enlists the help of shady Major Powell to dispose of his identical twin in order to assume his persona and inherit his wealth.
Though the one-armed Major Powell had viewed this country two years earlier, much remained unknown, and Dellenbaugh's account relays all the excitement of venturing into a blank patch on the map.