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Josiah Whitney

From Academic Kids

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Josiah_whitney.jpg
Portrait of Josiah Whitney by Silas Selleck, 1863

Josiah Dwight Whitney (November 23,1819-August 15,1896) was a professor of geology at Harvard University (from 1865), and was chief of the California Geological Survey (1860-1874).

While chief of the Survey, he organized a eminent team of geologists and geographers to survey the entire state of California, including the first scientific survey of the Sierra Nevada. Whitney left the fieldwork to his team, while publishing their results as the Geological Survey of California. He also published The Yosemite Book, which advocated protecting Yosemite Valley as a national park.

Whitney is probably best known for his scientific feud with John Muir. Whitney concluded that Yosemite Valley was a graben, a downdropped block of land. In 1871, Muir concluded (from his fieldwork) that it was a glacial valley. Muir was correct. Whitney mocked Muir and tried to suppress any evidence of glaciation in Yosemite. Whitney never admitted that he was wrong.

Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, was named after Whitney.

He was the brother of grammarian and lexicographer William Dwight Whitney.

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