Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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EMMONS, Ebenezer, geologist, born in Middlefield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, 16 May 1799; died in Brunswick, N. C., 1 October. 1863. He was graduated at Williams in 1818, and, after studying medicine and the natural sciences in various places, received his diploma from the Berkshire medical institute, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1830, and in 1833 became professor of natural history at Williams, being one of the first in the country to occupy such a chair. Here he made important contributions to the botany, geology, and mineralogy of the northern states, and prepared a report on the" Quadrupeds of Massachusetts." He was then appointed geologist-in-chief of the second district of the geological survey of the state of New York, and while thus engaged began to doubt the truth of the received opinion that the Silurian system was the oldest stratified fossil bearing system of rocks on the continent.
After continuing his investigations for several years, he announced his belief that the rocks forming the western face of the Green mountains, extending from Canada to Georgia, the well known Berkshire and Vermont lime stones, and other stratified rocks, belonged to a system underlying and therefore older than the Silurian. This he named the "Taconic " system, from the range of hills traversing Berkshire County. Other geologists with skepticism received this announcement, and Dr. Emmons was looked upon for years almost as a scientific impostor. But later discoveries in Canada and on the continent of Europe seemed to confirm his theory, and before his death most American geologists received it, either wholly or partially.
In 1838 he removed to Albany to occupy the chair of chemistry in the medical College there, but continued to lecture at Williams. In 1858 he was appointed by the North Carolina legislature to conduct the geological survey of that state, and rendered further service to science by determining the probable age of the red sandstone belt that stretches from the Connecticut valley to North Carolina. After the beginning of the civil war Dr. Emmons remained in the south, either because he was not permitted to leave, or from a desire to protect certain mining property. He published valuable reports in connection with the surveys of New York and North Carolina, a "Manual of Mineralogy and Geology" (1826), and "American Geology" (1856).
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