Nelson Horatio Darton was born in 1865 in Brooklyn, New York. He was always interested in science and mathematics, and at the age of 13 he became an apprentice at his uncle’s drug business. While there, he soon became a practicing chemist. As a sideline, he became interested in geology and was hired by the USGS in 1886 after he met G.K. Gilbert, the Chief of the USGS Appalachian Division. He initially worked on a card catalogue of Appalachian geology but soon moved into geologic fieldwork. Darton began making geologic maps in West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.
Throughout his career he had an interest in understanding ground water and how it was influenced by geology. Darton did an impressive amount of mapping in New York, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and Colorado.
Darton had many abilities besides making geologic maps. He was an expert in geological photography, made some important paleontological discoveries, and constructed topographic maps for bases for his geologic maps whenever they weren't available.
He retired in 1936 at the age of 71 but was allowed to keep his office at the USGS, and he continued an active geological career with a focus on the geology of the Washington DC area. He produced more than 200 publications and received many honors and awards. Three weeks before he died in 1948 , he was still coming daily to the USGS and gave a lecture to the Geological Society of Washington on the geology of the DC area.
Additional Information About N. H. Darton
- Anonymous, n.d.
- Repeat Historical Photography of Twentieth Century Vegetation Change in Wyoming and Montana, The Desert Laboratory, University of Arizona.
- King, P.B., 1949
- Memorial to Nelson Horatio Darton (1865-1948), Geological Society of America Proceedings, 145-170.
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