Rollin D. Salisbury


Salisbury was born on August 17, 1858 near the town of Spring Prairie in Wisconsin and at age 16 enrolled at Whitewater State Normal School finishing in only two and a half years.  Following his graduation in 1877, he taught high school at Port Washington, Wisconsin for a year, after which he enrolled in Beloit College.  It was at Beloit that Salisbury met his academic friend George Lucius Collie and mentor Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin.  Collie and Salisbury became lifelong friends and favorite students of Chamberlin.  In 1881 Chamberlin accepted a position as the head geologist on United States Geological Survey and asked Salisbury to become the assistant.  After graduation from Beloit in 1882, in addition to assisting Chamberlin at the survey, Salisbury assumed Chamberlin's teaching position at Beloit College and was quickly promoted to full professor and chair of the geology department.  He also taught zoology and botany.  Many colleagues and students record Salisbury being an excellent teacher and a favorite professor among many students.  He served as the school's superintendent from 1886-1887.  In 1887, Chamberlin became president of the University of Wisconsin, and four years later Salisbury joined him as a geology professor.  Collins then assumed Salisbury position at Beloit College.  In 1892, both Chamberlin and Salisbury left Wisconsin to become professors at the University of Chicago.

During this time Salisbury undertook several field research expeditions to the upper Mississippi Valley, New Jersey, the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, Uinta Mountains in Utah, and Greenland.  Much of his field work was done in conjunction with the geological survey and supported by Chamberlin.  When Chamberlin founded the Journal of Geology in 1893, Salisbury served as managing editor.  From 1903-1918, Salisbury also served as head and organized the first American department of geography, and built the program to be one of the most progressive in the nation.  Salisbury was also named the dean of the Ogden graduate school of science in 1897 where he remained until his death on August 15, 1922.  Years after his death, Salisbury was honored by Beloit College through the naming of the  Rollin D. Salisbury Department of Geology.  Salisbury Island, centrally located in the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Barents Sea off Russia, was also named in his honor.

Upon Salisbury's death in 1922, Chamberlin is quoted as saying, "Dr. Salisbury's greatest service to science lay in his singular success in stimulating and training young talent not only for the teaching of science but for research."

More information and pictures of Rollin Salisbury may be found at the following links:

Chamberlin, Salisbury and Collie: A tale of three Beloit College geologists by Allan F. Schneider, 2001.

Memorial Editorial: Rollin D. Salisbury, August 17, 1858-August 15, 1922

Acknowledgements: photo from Beloit College Archives.

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