This collection contains the papers of American geologist and professor of mining engineering William Henry Pettee (1838-1904)
consisting primarily of letters
dating from 1865 to 1878. The main subjects are the California
State Geological Survey; geologist Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1896); Colorado; and Freiberg, Germany.
Geologist and professor of mining engineering William Henry Pettee (1838-1904) was born in Massachusetts, the son of Otis
Pettee who was
a manufacturer of cotton goods, inventor of cotton milling machinery, and president of the
Charles River Railroad. William graduated from Harvard with a degree in classical studies in 1861. He
spent the next three years studying engineering at Lawrence Scientific School (later part of
Harvard University), during which time he also assisted in teaching chemistry. He continued
his graduate studies from 1865 to 1868 in Freiberg, Saxony, at the Royal Mining Academy and
visited mining areas throughout northern Europe. On his return to Cambridge in 1869 he
became an instructor in the new school of mines which Harvard had requested Josiah D.
Whitney to found. During the summer of 1869 Pettee went with Whitney as part of the South
Park Topographical Expedition to do field work in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. In
1870-71 Pettee was given leave to become an assistant to Whitney on the California State
Geological Survey. Pettee is particularly known for his barometric determination of altitude
and his studies of the beds of gold-bearing gravels. His work led to the publication of
Whitney's book Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of
California and to Contributions to Barometric Hypsometry.
Pettee did his field work in the northeastern part of the state (mainly the region
of the Yuba and Feather Rivers) in 1870 then went to the Geological Survey office in San
Francisco in 1871 for the reduction and arrangement of the summer's observations. He
returned to Cambridge and served as Assistant Professor of Mining from 1871 to 1875. When
the University of Michigan established its School of Mines, he was invited to become
Professor of Economic Geology and Mining Engineering; he continued at the University of
Michigan for the next 29 years. In 1879 he returned to California to complete his
observations on the auriferous gravels so they could be included in Whitney's 1880
publication. Pettee did the behind-the-scenes research for many publications and was active
in the American Institute of Mining Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of
Science, the Philosophical Society and other learned organizations.
839 pieces in 4 boxes and 1 roll
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