Florence Bascom

American geologist

Florence Bascom (July 14, 1862 – June 18, 1945) was a pioneer for women as a geologist and educator, in 1893 being the first woman to earn a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and 1896 being the first woman to work for the United States Geological Survey. Geologists refer to Bascom as the "first woman geologist in America".

Florence Bascom circa 1900


  • While the geological explorations of the South Mountain have been careful and minute and conducted by able geologists, the petrography of its rocks has never been thoroughly investigated. The microscope has not been used to assist in determining the nature and origin of the rocks, and to correct impressions colored by preconceived ideas or by an experience more or less limited to sedimentary structures. Under microscopic scrutiny and the comparative study of recent lavas, an increasing number of the so-called sedimentary rocks are proving to be igneous in origin.
  • The fascination of any search after truth lies not in the attainment, which at best is found to be very relative, but in the pursuit, where all the powers of the mind and character are brought into play and are absorbed by the task. One feels oneself in contact with something that is infinite and one finds joy that is beyond expression in sounding the abyss of science and the secrets of the infinite mind.
    • Smith, Isabel Fothergill (1981) The Stone Lady: a Memoir of Florence Bascom. Cited in Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society (992), Vols. 11-12, 39.
  • It is an interesting manifestation of the attitude of certain public critics toward change, that when the collegiate training of women was first on trial there were clamorous complaints that the health of young women was being wrecked; now the same class of public critics are loudly complaining that college women are "Amazons."
  • I have always claimed that there was no merit in being the only one of a kind.... I have considerable pride in the fact that some of the best work done in geology today by women, ranking with that done by men, has been done by my students.... these are all notable young women who will be a credit to the science of geology.

Quotes about Florence Bascom

  • That she did master the subject and decide to make it her specialty is an indication of her courage and of that determination which found nothing too difficult.
  • Probably no one will ever know all the difficulties that she encountered, but little by little she achieved her purpose of making her department one of the best in the country.
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