John Rodgers

John Rodgers

1914 - 2004

John Rodgers was born (1914) in Albany, New York. He received a B.A. in 1936 and an M.A. in 1937 from Cornell University, earned his Ph.D. from Yale in 1944. His graduate school years were interrupted by his WW11 service from 1939 to 1946 in the U.S. Geological Survey and as a scientific consultant to the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

In 1946 Professor Rodgers joined the Department of Geology at Yale and became a full professor in 1962. He served as chair from 1964 to 1967.  “ I collect mountain ranges” he often  said in describing his work. From fieldwork begun in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee, he developed a detailed, first-hand, encyclopedic knowledge of the entire range from Nova Scotia to Alabama. He was known among his colleagues as “Mr Appalachian Mountain Man”. He retired from Yale in 1985 and died in 2004 at the age of 89.


In his 1970 book “The Tectonics of the Appalachians” considered a model of scientific writing, John Rodgers argued that the Appalachian mountain range actually had once extended south into Mexico and northwestern South America, and from northwest Africa through Spain and Great Britain to Norway and eastern Greenland—thus lending early support to the theory of continental drift.

His concern with the dynamic processes that shaped the Earth’s surface was demonstrated in his 1985 “Bedrock Geologic Map of the State of Connecticut.” Unique for its time, it showed the seemingly stable floor of this state records a history of lateral shift of vast sheets of rock over immense intervals of time.

For contributions in his field, Professor Rodgers was awarded the 1981 Penrose Medal of  the Geological Society of America, the Prix Gaudry of the Geological Society of France in 1987, and in the same year, the Fourmanier Medal of the Royal Academy of Science, Fine Arts and Letters. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as President of the Geological Society of America. John was editor of the Journal of Science from 1954 to 1995.

He was best described as believing that geology was best learned in the field, with disputes carried out on the outcrop.

 (Excerpted from Yale Bulletin & Newsletter, March 2004)


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