«Volume XVII. SIXTH MKMOIB. BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR CHARLES RICHARD VAN HISE 1857-1918. BY THOMAS C. CHAMBERLIN. PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE AUTUMN ...»
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.
BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR CHARLES RICHARD VAN HISE
THOMAS C. CHAMBERLIN.
PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE AUTUMN MEETING, 1919.
CHARLES RICHARD VAN HISE.
By T. C. CHAMBERLIN.
When the career of a leader in science happens to coincide with the rise of a new epoch in the field of research which he cultivates, it is by no means easy to apportion the work of the leader in creating the epoch and the influence of the epoch in developing the leader. But it is always comforting to reflect that whatever may be a just apportionment of the reciprocal influences, the association of a great worker with a great epoch at least bespeaks the genius of the leader in seeing the possibilities of the opportunity and making common cause with them, whether by gaming from them or contributing to them, or by both.
The beginning of the scientific career of Charles Richard Van Hise fell in rather closely with the rise and spread in America of the new art of microscopic petrology and the epoch-making science that arose from it. The new art had begun to develop somewhat in the Old World while young Van Hise was yet a student, but he was one of the first in America to recognize its epoch-making power, and aid in its development; he was quite the first I think to bring its resources to bear upon the study of the crystalline rocks of the interior. He was clearly one of the leaders in realizing the higher and broader values of the new science in the interpretation of the origin and history of the ancient metamorphic terranes. The new departure was one of much moment in the history not only of petrology, but of geology. Up to this time the means of determining the precise nature of the complex rocks formed of minutely intermixed crystals were both limited and untrustworthy. The revelations made by scrutiny under the microscope by the aid of polarized light and other appliances, formed a new epoch in this basal science.
To attempt to employ it at all in that early day, when its difficulties were so little known, made demands on the courage of the young men who ventured to try it and called for the fullest resources of their training in the basal sciences involved. The first official products of the new art in America seem to have been the work of two young men—one at the east, Dr. George W.
Hawes, of the State Geological Survey of New Hampshire, whose early death was a sore loss to science, and one in the interior, Dr. Charles E. Van Hise, of the Wisconsin Geological Survey, who soon rose to eminence in the development of the new science.
Dr. Van Hise's first contribution was entitled "The Crystalline Rocks of the Wisconsin Valley," and formed the body of Part VII of Volume IV of the Wisconsin Survey of 1873-1879.
It was a joint report, the senior author of which was the lamented Irving, under whose guidance and inspiration young Van Hise had pursued his geological studies in the University of Wisconsin.
This report indeed was a part of their joint labor as teacher and pupil. The story of the working relations of Irving, the teacher, and Van Hise, the student, as they struggled together in the laboratories of the old Science Hall of the University of Wisconsin, to bring to bear the light of the new methods on the obscure old rocks of the Wisconsin Valley, is among the most delightful reminiscences of those who were permitted to come into close touch with them at this interesting stage of their mutual development. While Van Hise was working with the microscope on these obscure old rocks he came upon what he thought was a new and diagnostic characteristic in one of the constituents under his study, and he had the insight to see that, if his impression was sustained, it would be a valuable contribution to the new petrological science as well as an aid in the practice of the new art. Naturally he was greatly elated; but the conscientious Irving, who by instinct as it were always played the role of the cautious and critical trainer, kept the young enthusiast's elation in curb by no end of objections while he gave special piquancy to them by that brusque humor that was peculiarly Irving's own. Still, [MEMOm fvoL.Txvn;
146 CHARLES RICHARD VAN HISE—CHAMBERLIN.
in the face of all this, Van Hise held his ground sturdily and after each bout with his trainer went back to his lathe and his microscope undaunted and eager to find further confirmation of his conclusions, until at length he proved his case beyond question or cavil. This early proof of his sturdiness and steadiness of purpose, supported by his clearness of insight and his firmness of induction, were true forecasts of the mental trend that ever after marked the strong scientific leader into which young Van Hise soon grew.
This earliest official work of Van Hise in connection with Irving was carried on during the closing years of the Wisconsin Geological Survey of 1873-1879. So declared was the high quality of their work that immediately on the close of the State survey, the services of both Irving and Van Hise were sought by the National Survey and the work they had so well inaugurated in Wisconsin was continued without interruption not only, but extended to the whole field of the ancient crystalline rocks in the interior of the United States.
At the time of the lamented death of Irving in 1878, their joint work on these ancient rocks had already developed into varied and comprehensive lines of research. All these now fell to the charge of Dr. Van Hise. The final report on their joint wTork appeared under Van Hise's editorship in an important report entitled "The Penokee Iron-Bearing Series of Michigan and Wisconsin" (Monograph XIX of the U. S. Geological Survey, 1892). The manuscript for this was transmitted in 1890, but the published volume did not appear until 1892. Besides elaborate discussions of the formations that make up this great series and critical microscopic descriptions of the constituent rocks, an important feature was the establishment of a standard section of the crystalline series of the Lake Superior region, which has been a basis of reference ever since, although naturally additions have been made to it in the progress of later study.
In 1896 Van Hise, jointly with W. S. Bayley and II. L. Smyth, transmitted to the National Government a second monographic work entitled "The Marquette Iron-Bearing District of Michigan" (Monograph XXVIII, U. S. Geological Survey, 1897). This was a natural sequel and companion work to the preceding monograph on the Penokee Iron-Bearing series. Among the important features of this report was the discovery that the Marquette series embraced two divisions, separated by unconformities. This volume also contained a fuller development of the important doctrine that the present richness of the iron ores is due in part to the purification of the original ores and in part to the concentration of the iron compounds from above downward, both processes being the work of the natural circulation of the meteorological waters. In the treatment of the Basement Complex, the oldest recognized series of rocks, the very significant fact was brought out that the schistose members of the series were originally surface deposits, largely of volcanic origin, and that the granitic and granetoidal masses of the region had been intruded into these surface formations and hence were younger. It had previously been generally supposed that the granites and the granitoidal rocks were simply cooled portions of the molten globe which was then commonly postulated as an early state of the earth. It now appeared, however, that these supposed relics of the crust were in reality later and younger than the schistose rocks which at the time formed the outer part of the earth.
Furthermore, it appeared that most of these schistose terraines had in their turn been laid down on a previous surface. This significant discovery left this region barren of all direct evidence of the supposed molten globe. It is interesting to note that about the same time, as well as later, similar evidence was forthcoming from other regions of ancient rocks of like type which, as in this case, had been supposed to be parts of the original crust of the molten earth. The joint effect of these suggestive revelations was to rob the doctrine of a molten earth of practically all field evidence. These very radical determinations have been sustained by subsequent inquiries, and they thus constitute a contribution to the interpretation of an early stage of earth history of the first order of importance.
There closely followed this report on the Marquette series a monograph of like nature on "The Crystal Falls Iron-Bearing Region, of Michigan," the joint work of Drs. Clements, Smyth, and Bayley, under the general supervision of Van Hise. To this Van Hise prepared an introduction in which he brought into comparison the leading features of analogous formations elsewhere in the Lake Superior region in the United States and in Canada.
ACADEMY OP SCIBNCES.] BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 147 Three other monographs of like nature were later prepared by colleagues under the supervision of Dr. Van Hise, viz: "The Mesabi Iron-Bearing District of Minnesota," by C. K. Leith (Monograph XLIII, U. S. Geological Survey, 1903); "The Vermillion Iron-Bearing Series of Minnesota," by J. M. Clements (Monograph XLV, U. S. Geological Survey, 1903), and "The Menominee Iron-Bearing District," by W. S. Bayley (Monograph XLVI, U. S. Geological Survey, 1904). These taken with the preceding treatises, make in all six ponderous volumes on the iron-bearing series of Lake Superior. Altogether these embrace over 3,000 quarto pages, and are illustrated by multitudes of figures and maps, making up a monumental series quite unmatched in its own line, a testimony to the invincible industry of Dr. Van Hise. It scarcely need be said that these placed Van Hise at the head of workers on the iron-bearing series of the Algonkian or Proterozoic ages.
While these studies had centered on the great iron-bearing series of Lake Superior, they had involved careful discussions of the adjacent formations of other types, and so were regional monographs as well as specific formational treatises.
There followed these regional monographic studies, in an order that was natural to the trend of an expanding mind always prone to take large views of his field, a series of papers of a broader range. Among these was a series of elaborate discussions of the correlations of the oldest known formation, the Archean, and the next following systems, which lie unconformably upon these and upon one another in due order, the Algonkian series, since grouped under the name Proterozoic. These discussions formed a part of a notable series of correlation papers published by the National Geological Survey in 1892, under the general editorship of the late Grove Karl Gilbert. They have proved very helpful to all workers in this difficult field.
In 1904 there appeared what many regard as the climacteric paper of Dr. Van Hise, "A Treatise on Metamorphism," a ponderous quarto of 1,286 pages, discussing in a masterly way and in great detail the leading modes by which the nature of rocks are changed and the agencies and conditions that take part in these changes. As all the rocks which he had been studying so diligently during the preceding two and a half decades had undergone such changes in some large measure, but yet in quite different degrees and in quite different ways, he was amply equipped for this great work by intimate personal familiarity with the phenomena. In this work Van Hise made a special effort to reduce the phenomena of metamorphic rocks to the laws of chemistry and physics. This opus magnum has had a profound influence on the progress of opinion on this important phase of geologic research. It was shortly after the completion of the manuscript of this monumental work that Dr. Van Hise was called to undertake the administration of the University of Wisconsin, and with the assumption of this great task his more active geological studies ceased.
One of his greatest contributions, however, appeared seven years later in collaboration with Dr. Leith, whose relations to Van Hise were much the same as those of Van Hise to Irving. This was a comprehensive summary work on "The Geology of the Lake Superior Region" (Monograph LII, U. S. Geological Survey, 1911). In this important work, there were gathered the mature ideas of both authors as these had gradually grown into fullness and ripeness as the result of the studies and restudies of the previous 30 years. It is a masterly endeavor to set forth, in generalized form, the characteristic features of the iron and copper bearing series, their relations to one another and to the great basement complex on which they rest, and to interpret the origin of the ores that give these formations their extraordinary economic values, while at the same time it sets forth the long and varied history of the region. It is not, of course, to be regarded as the final word on these vast themes, but it sums up a long series of intensive studies of great fruitfulness. Far from holding it as a final utterance, its authors speak of it merely as the first of a series of such monographs to be hoped for in the future, a series which shall carry forward similar comprehensive treatment to greater and greater fullness and perfection as exploitation shall reveal more and more of the hidden structure that prevents completeness now. In spite of such modest disclaimers, it stands as a really monumental work, marking a great epoch in the scientific elucidation of an intricate region of extraordinary [MEMOIE 8 A 148 CHAELES RICHARD VAN HISE—CHAMBERLIN.
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interest and of representative character. On the geological side, it is a climacteric work, comparable to the treatise on metamorphism on the physicochemical side.
The intensive studies of Van Hise on the iron-copper-hearing formations naturally led him to more general studies of the philosophy of ore deposits and directed him in issuing a series of special papers on ore deposits, among which "The Principles Controlling the Deposition of Ores" (Journ. Geol., Vol. VIII, 1900) and his presidential address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, delivered at Denver in 1901, may be taken as types.