Scope and Content
Title: John P. Buwalda and Imra Wann Buwalda Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1907-1981
Collection number: 10056-MS
Creator: Buwalda, John P. 1886-1954
8 linear feet
California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: The personal and organizational correspondence, working papers, notebooks, and manuscripts of John P. Buwalda (1886-1954)
form the the bulk of the collection known as the John P. and Imra Wann Buwalda Papers in the Archives of the California Institute
of Technology (Caltech). The writings of Imra Wann Buwalda, wife of John P. Buwalda, on the history of Caltech, the subject
of earthquakes, and miscellaneous family and professional papers connected to her work as a policewoman form a subgroup of
this collection. John P. Buwalda was a structural geologist who became the first chairman of Caltech's new Geology Division
Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
Language of Material:
Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.
Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise,
is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], John P. Buwalda and Imra Wann Buwalda Papers, 10056-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of
The Papers of John P. and Imra Wann Buwalda were contained in a large set of files donated by Caltech's Division of Geological
and Planetary Sciences in August 1990. The papers of a personal and specific nature--those mainly unrelated to Buwalda's role
as Division chairman--were separated from the larger collection and processed in 1998 as the Papers of John P. and Imra Wann
John Peter Buwalda was born December 16, 1886, in Zeeland, Michigan, a town settled by Dutch immigrants, to which group his
parents belonged. In 1897 the family moved to Yakima, Washington, where Buwalda graduated from high school in 1905. He began
his undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, but after some time off from school, during which he worked in
the Coeur d'Alene mines of Idaho and surveyed for the Northern Pacific Railway in the Cascade Mountains, he enrolled as a
geology major at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1909. He received his BS with honors in 1912. His mentors were
John C. Merriam (paleontology) and Andrew C. Lawson (geology). In 1915 he completed his doctorate and began an instructorship
at Berkeley. In 1917 he married a Berkeley graduate, Imra Wann, and took up a teaching position at Yale, where he remained
until 1921--with a year off (1918-1919) to work for the US Geological Survey in Washington. In 1921 he returned to Berkeley
as professor of geology and also held the post of Dean of Summer Sessions.
In 1925 Buwalda was invited by Robert Millikan to take on the chairmanship of the newly formed Geology Division at Caltech.
Upon his arrival in Pasadena in January of 1926 to begin his new duties, one of his first actions was to appoint his Berkeley
colleague Chester Stock to a position in vertebrate paleontology. Stock would later succeed Buwalda as chairman of the division.
Buwalda was a meticulous administrator and devoted much time to setting up a curriculum in geology modeled largely on Berkeley's
program. He eventually integrated the Seismological Laboratory--established in Pasadena in the 1920s under the aegis of the
Carnegie Institution of Washington--into the Caltech geology division. He also devoted himself extensively to consulting,
notably, in water supply, mining and oil exploration. One of his major involvements was with the National Park Service, and
he served on the Yosemite National Park Board from 1929 until his death in 1954. He was active in many professional and civic
Buwalda's scientific career was focused in structural geology. His interests ranged from vertebrate paleontology to engineering
geology and almost all aspects of Earth science.
Imra Wann Buwalda was a native of Berkeley, California. Her birth date is unconfirmed (ca. 1895), but she attended Berkeley
High School and the University of California, graduating from the latter in 1917 with a bachelor's degree in law. (By her
own explanation, the first year of law school at that time was equivalent to senior year for the AB degree.) After her marriage
to John P. Buwalda in 1917, she became one of the first policewomen in the city of Washington, DC. She continued to advocate
the presence of women on police forces and to work on social intervention as a means of crime prevention, especially in the
cases of juveniles and women. She maintained a high level of activity in local social, civic and political organizations throughout
her life. In her later years she wrote a history of the California Institute of Technology, which has remained unpublished.
She and John Buwalda were the parents of four children.
Scope and Content
The John P. Buwalda papers include 11 boxes of personal and professional papers, including correspondence, subject files,
manuscript, technical notes, memorabilia and photos. They comprise papers relating to various aspects of geology, including
seismology, earthquake engineering and paleontology, professional organizations, national parks, and personal and family matters.
The papers of Imra Wann Buwalda, occupying 4 boxes, contain her own unpublished history of the California Institute of Technology;
and her studies of the social effects of earthquakes and other civic and social action materials, including reference to her
pioneering work in criminology as a policewoman.
The collection is organized into the following series:
- Series 1. Personal Correspondence
- Series 2. Organizational Correspondence and Documents
- Series 3. Caltech-Related Correspondence and Documents
- Series 4. Technical Correspondence and Notes
- Series 5. Lectures, Manuscripts, Talks
- Series 6. Personal
- Series 7. Notebooks
- Series 8. Miscellaneous
- Series 9. Imra Wann Buwalda
Materials relating to John Buwalda's tenure as chairman of Caltech's Geology Division may be found in the collection called
Records of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
California Institute of Technology
National Parks and Reserves