William Madison Furnish


William Madison Furnish was born on August 17, 1912 in Tipton, Iowa to William Madison Furnish Sr. and Jean Minto Swartlender.  He graduated from Tipton High School and then attended Tipton Junior College.  After Tipton Junior College, Furnish went to the University of Iowa, receiving his B.A. in 1934.  He remained at the University of Iowa as A.K. Miller’s student and received an M.S. in 1935 and a Ph.D. in 1938, in geology. 

In the same year he received his Ph.D., Furnish also married Eula Berniece Beck.  Beck had also attended the University of Iowa and had received a B.A. in Sociology in 1937.  She worked in the Geology Library while at the University which is where she and William met. 

Furnish remained at the University of Iowa for two more years working as a Research Assistant in geology.  Then, in 1940, he left to teach geology at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.  Furnish stayed at Oklahoma for only a couple of years and during World War II he left to work as a petroleum geologist in Texas and Louisiana; he then continued working as a petroleum geologist in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for the next several years.  However in 1953, Furnish returned to the University of Iowa as a professor of geosciences.  At the University of Iowa Furnish taught Introductory Geology, Stratigraphy, and Petroleum Geology.  He worked at the University of Iowa until he retired in 1978. 

William Furnish had a very prominent career in geology.  He did much research on invertebrate paleontology, especially with cephalopods.  However, many believe his greatest work was on conodonts.  Furnish pioneered the field of conodont biostratigraphy, which has led to worldwide correlation of rock units. 

Outside of his career, Furnish enjoyed a rich personal life.  He and his wife had five children: Dale, Elizabeth, Sarah, James, and Joseph.  After retiring, William and Eula moved to a house they had built near the Cedar River outside of Rochester.  They lived in this house for 25 years and enjoyed having their 16 grandchildren visit them.  After retirement William gained a passion for double-barrel shotguns which he collected, researched, and wrote about.  In 1999, William and his wife moved back to Iowa City where they lived in the Oaknoll Residence Home.  Eula Berniece Beck passed away on January 7, 2005.  William Madison Furnish died on November 9, 2007.

Furnish's dissertation title page (PDF)

Scan of Furnish's Original Labels

Back to the Main Page