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Silas Watson Ford: A Major But Little-known Contributor to the Cambrian Paleontology of North America

TitleSilas Watson Ford: A Major But Little-known Contributor to the Cambrian Paleontology of North America
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsVanAller Hernick, L
JournalEarth Sciences History
Volume18
Pagination246-263
KeywordsCambrian paleontology, history of science, New York, Silas Watson Ford
Abstract

Silas Watson Ford (1848-1895), telegrapher and paleontologist born in Glenville, New York, in 1848, made significant contributions to Cambrian paleontology from 1871 to 1888. The focus of his work was the allochthonous Taconic rock that lies east of the Hudson River in easternmost New York. His discovery of a ‘Primordial’ fauna in this region was instrumental in helping to resolve the uncertainty surrounding the age of this older portion of the Taconics. While most of his papers were published in the American Journal of Science, a series of seven papers on the ‘Silurian Age’ was published by the New York Tribune in 1879. For this work he was subsequently awarded an honorary master's degree by Union College.

Ford was hired by his contemporary, Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927), to work for the U.S. Geological Survey from 1884 to 1885. Highly regarded by James Hall (1811-1898), James Dwight Dana (1813-1895), Joachim Barrande (1799-1883), and many other prominent geologists of the time, he was often consulted for his expertise in collecting and describing Cambrian-age fossils.

While Walcott's career continued to flourish, Ford faded into obscurity after 1888. Plagued by personal problems, he was forced to give up his personal library, his fossil collection, and finally, his career. He died in 1895 at the age of 47, with his passing virtually unnoticed by his professional colleagues.

URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.17704/eshi.18.2.71355x54266626l1
DOI10.17704/eshi.18.2.71355x54266626l1