Hall, James

born Sept. 12, 1811, Hingham, Mass., U.S.
died Aug. 7, 1898, Bethlehem, N.H.

U.S. geologist and paleontologist.

He made extensive explorations in the St. Lawrence valley while teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1832–36). In 1836 he was appointed state geologist for the Geological Survey of New York; his studies culminated in the massive Geology of New York (part 4, 1843), a classic in U.S. geology that introduced the geosynclinal theory of mountain building. He was state geologist of Iowa (1855–58) and of Wisconsin (1857–60). He served as director of New York State's Museum of Natural History (1871–98). His major later work was the huge Paleontology of New York (13 vol., 1847–94).

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▪ American author
born Aug. 19, 1793, Philadelphia
died July 5, 1868, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.

      one of the earliest U.S. authors to write of the American frontier.

      Hall was a soldier in the War of 1812, a lawyer and circuit judge, a newspaper and magazine editor, state treasurer of Illinois (1827–31), a banker in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a writer of history and fiction. In 1828 he compiled the first western literary annual, the Western Souvenir, and he edited the Illinois Monthly Magazine (1830–32), which he continued at Cincinnati until 1836 as the Western Monthly Magazine. He consistently encouraged western contributors. Hall wrote an interesting travel book, Letters from the West (1828); one novel, The Harpe's Head (1833); a readable survey of western exploration, The Romance of Western History (1857); and several volumes of short stories. Such tales as “Pete Featherton” and “A Legend of Carondelet,” which found a place in many anthologies, early established Hall as a short-story writer of distinction. He was particularly successful in sketching life in the French settlements of the Illinois country and in interpreting such authentic figures as the backwoodsman, voyageur, and Indian hater. His best stories appear in Legends of the West (1832) and Tales of the Border (1835).

▪ American geologist
born Sept. 12, 1811, Hingham, Mass., U.S.
died Aug. 7, 1898, Bethlehem, N.H.

      American geologist and paleontologist who was a major contributor to the geosynclinal theory of mountain building. According to this theory, sediment buildup in a shallow basin causes the basin to sink, thus forcing the neighbouring area to rise. His detailed studies established the stratigraphy of eastern North America.

      Even as a student, Hall spent his summers and limited finances doing fieldwork, including the collection and identification of more than 900 species of plants. He became an assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer, N.Y., in 1832 and later professor of chemistry, natural science, and geology.

      In 1836 he was appointed state geologist for the Geological Survey of New York. Assigned to the western district, he conducted studies that culminated in his massive report Geology of New York (part 4, 1843), a classic in American geology. Although he could not explain the uplift of the sedimentary beds that formed the Appalachians, his observations were instrumental in forming the geosynclinal theory.

      Hall became director of the Museum of Natural History, Albany, N.Y., in 1871. His 13-volume The Palaeontology of New York (1847–94) contained the results of his exhaustive studies of the Silurian and Devonian (approximately 360 million to 415 million years old) fossils found in New York.

      He was state geologist of Iowa from 1855 to 1858 and of Wisconsin from 1857 to 1860. His publications included more than 260 scientific papers and 35 books dealing with numerous phases of the geology and paleontology of the United States and Canada. He was a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Universalium. 2010.

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