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HITCHCOCK, EDWARD (b. Deerfield, Massachusetts,
24 May 1793; d. Amherst, Massachusetts, 27
February 1864), geology.
geomorphological studies, becoming a cautious admirer
of Louis Agassiz after a trip to European glacial
sites in 1850 convinced him of the erosional power
of ice. But his important study of terraces in the
Connecticut River Valley, which culminated in his
Illustrations of Surface Geology (1857), demonstrated
his reluctance to abandon entirely fluviate geology
for glacial theories. In contrast to his conservatism
on glacial issues, Hitchcock was an early American
advocate of the thesis that heat and pressure gradually
changed sediments into schist and thence possibly to
granite, a theory which he felt most adequately explained
his observations on metamorphosed New
Hitchcock's work in paleontology focused almost
exclusively on the huge footprints left by vertebrates
in the Triassic sandstone of the Connecticut River
Valley; he argued that these tracks, which have since
been attributed to dinosaurs, were made by ancient
birds. In all of his writings, particularly in Religion
of Geology (Boston, 1851) and his sermons, Hitchcock
supported a unified truth rather than a theology separate
from science. In his teaching, writing, and
preaching, he conceived a transcendental vision of a
beneficent God more comprehensible from a fusion
of theological and natural studies than from their
division into separate compartments of knowledge.
I. ORIGINAL WORKS.
Charles Henry Hitchcock lists
Hitchcock's published work, including his play, newspaper
articles, sermons, popular treatises, technical articles and
books, and textbooks in “Edward Hitchcock,” in American
Geologist,16 (1895), 139-149; esp. valuable are the American
Journal of Science articles listed there. See also Report
on the Geology of Massachusetts (Amherst, 1833); Final
Report on the Geology of Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Amherst-Northampton,
1841); Illustrations of Surface Geology,
Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. IX (Washington,
D.C., 1857); Ichnology of New England, 2 vols.
(Boston, 1858); supp. on fossil footprints (Boston, 1865);
and A Report on the Geology of Vermont, 2 vols. (Claremont,
Hitchcock's best-selling textbook, Elementary Geology,
ran through several eds. and over thirty printings from
1840 until his death, and is thus a valuable index to his
changes of thought on geological issues.
II. SECONDARY LITERATURE.
Hitchcock lacks an adequate
biography, and therefore researchers must piece
together his life from a patchwork of sources. Use of the
Edward Hitchcock Papers, Special Collections Room,
Robert Frost Library, Amherst College, is imperative for
an accurate and complete assessment. In addition to the
published biographies listed in Max Meisel, A Bibliography
of American Natural History, the Pioneer Century, 1769-1865
(Brooklyn, N.Y., 1924-1929), I, 195, and George
Merrill, “Edward Hitchcock,” in Dictionary of American
Biography, see Benjamin Silliman's manuscript “Reminiscences,
1792-1862,” V, Beinecke Library, Yale University;
George Sheldon, A History of Deerfield, Massachusetts
(Deerfield, 1895-1896), pp. 848-849; and Edwin H. Colbert,
Men and Dinosaurs, the Search in Field and Laboratory
(New York, 1968), pp. 37-41.
Until a similar work is written on American geologists,
Charles Coulston Gillispie provides the best intellectual
context for evaluating Hitchcock in Genesis and Geology,
a Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural
Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850
(Cambridge, 1951; repr. New York, 1959).