Photographs from the early years of the Department of Geology

The Department of Geology at the University of Alberta was founded in 1912 by John A. Allan, who had just graduated with his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. His fellow graduate student was the now-famous geologist Norman L. Bowen. Whereas Bowen went on to investigate the origins of igneous rocks at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Allan established what has become one of the largest earth science departments in Canada.

This exhibition of photographs provides an impression of the personnel and activities in the early years of the department.

John A. Allan was the sole faculty member in 1912, but was joined in 1914 by Alan E. Cameron (Lecturer in Geology and in Mining Engineering). In 1920, Percival S. Warren was hired (as Professor of Paleontology and Stratigraphy), and Ralph L. Rutherford joined in 1923 (as Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology). Allan remained as Professor and Head until his retirement in 1949.

This small group of faculty undertook diverse field investigations across the province. Their fieldwork, often undertaken under the auspices of the Geological Survey of Canada, or the Alberta Research Council (which Allan helped establish), is reflected in the collections of rocks, minerals, and fossils of the department, as well as the photographs shown here. Allan started the museum collections in 1912 to support the teaching of geology and supplemented the educational experience of the students with field trips.

The year 2012 marks the centennial of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. It has grown to more than fifty faculty members, and encompasses interdisciplinary research themes and diverse teaching programs. These include Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography, Environmental Earth Sciences, Human Geography and Planning, Paleontology, and Solid Earth Sciences – Geology. The success of the present department is built on the wide-ranging efforts, foresight, and dedication of the original staff.

The photographs are from the University of Alberta Archives and the department files.