Cracking the Cambrian: Walcott in Maryland - 1892

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Scholarly article in which the author relates an account of what transpired in 1891 and 1892, when research by two United States Geological Survey field geologists, Arthur Keith and H. R. Geiger, indicated an age for sandstone in a strata at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. However, Charles Dolittle Walcott, then Chief Paleontologist of the USGS and later fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, corrected that age the next year, when Keith and he determined that the presumed Silurian sandstone was of Early Cambrian age. Over the ensuing years, Walcott's finding has been repeatedly confirmed. The author provides much detail relating to the geology and geography of Harper's Ferry and surrounding areas. He provides this information in juxtaposition with entries from Walcott's diary, and comments that those entries provide a textbook example of how a paleontologist in the field can aid a mapping geologist.


  • Walcott, Charles D (Charles Doolittle) 1850-1927
  • Geological Society of America
  • United States National Museum
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Two map illustrations and a Reference Section accompany the article.

Contained within

Northeastern Geology and Environmental Sciences Vol. 22, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Geology
  • Secretaries
  • Paleontology
  • Fossils

Physical description

pgs. 316 - 323

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