Josiah Whitney

Josiah Whitney

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Josiah Whitney

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Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–1896) was an American geologist, professor of geology at Harvard University (from 1865), and chief of the California Geological Survey (1860–1874). Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, and the Whitney Glacier, the first confirmed glacier in the United States, on Mount Shasta, were both named after him by members of the Survey.

Early years

Whitney was born November 23, 1819 in Northampton, Massachusetts, the oldest of 12 children.His father was Josiah Dwight Whitney (1786–1869) of the New England Dwight family. His mother was Sarah Williston (1800–1833).He was the brother of grammarian and lexicographer William Dwight Whitney (1827–1894).He was educated at a series of schools in Northampton, Plainfield, Round Hill, New Haven and Andover. In 1836 he entered Yale University where he studied chemistry, mineralogy and astronomy. After graduation in 1839, he continued to study chemistry in Philadelphia, and in 1840 he joined a geologic survey of New Hampshire as an unpaid assistant to Charles T. Jackson.

In 1841, he was preparing to enter Harvard Law School when he happened to hear a lecture on geology by Charles Lyell. He decided to change career plans and sailed to Europe in 1842 to continue his studies in science. For the next five years he traveled through Europe and studied chemistry and geology in France and Germany.

When Whitney returned home in 1847 he...
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