Houghton, Douglass, 1809-1845

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1809-09-21
Death 1845-10-13

Biographical notes:

The Michigan Geological Survey was created by Public Act 20 of 1837. Its purpose was to conduct a geological and mineralogical survey of the state. The state legislature appointed Douglass Houghton the first state geologist (1837). In 1921, the state legislature established the Department of Conservation, and the Michigan Geological Survey became part of that department (Public Act 17 of 1921). The Department of Conservation established the Geological Survey Division circa 1947. In 1968, the department was renamed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) (Public Act 353 of 1968). In 1995, Governor John Engler separated the environmental protection and natural resources conservation functions of the DNR, and created the Department of Environmental Quality (Executive Reorganization Order 1995-16). The Geological Survey Division was transferred to the Department of Environmental Quality.

From the description of Records from and relating to Douglass Houghton, 1827-1952. (State Archive of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 49522682

Born in Troy, N.Y., Sept. 21, 1809; graduated from Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1829; remained there as junior professor of Chemistry; delivered scientific lectures in Detroit in 1830 attracting great audiences; licensed to practice medicine, 1831; explored sources of Mississippi; settled in Detroit, practicing physician & surgeon, 1832-1837; appointed professor of geology, mineralogy & chemistry, U. of M., 1838; explored south coast of Lake Superior, 1840; mayor of Detroit, 1842; member of several scientific societies; drowned in lake Superior during an exploration, Oct. 13, 1845. (from Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography) (Blue index cards)

From the description of Douglass Houghton papers, 1821-1839 (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 435447652

Douglass Houghton was an American geologist and physician, primarily known for his exploration of the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. He explored the area in 1831 and 1832, and conducted a survey of the peninsula in 1840 as State Geologist of the newly formed state of Michigan. Houghton's report of 1841, which resulted from his survey, was eighty-eight pages in length and he spent more than twenty-seven pages discussing the copper and copper ore he witnessed in his travels. He famously concluded, "the copper ores are not only of superior quality, but also that their associations are such as to render them easily reduced." He noted that samples of ore he had tested were richer than the copper ore being then mined in Cornwall. He also famously warned against prospectors rushing to the area in hopes of striking it rich: "look closely before the step is taken, which will most certainly end in disappointment and ruin." Nevertheless, Houghton's report prompted a major rush of settlers to the peninsula. Douglass Houghton was drowned in Lake Superior, near the mouth of Eagle River, during a violent storm, on October 13, 1845. His body was recovered in May of the following year. He was returned to Detroit and buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

From the description of Douglass Houghton Papers, 1830-1846. (Michigan Technological University). WorldCat record id: 758512045

Physician, naturalist, scientist, surveyor, and the first State Geologist of Michigan, Houghton was one of the earliest surveyors of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A county, city, lake, and three villages in Michigan are named for him. For further biographical information, read Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography.

From the description of Papers, 1830-1846. (Clarke Historical Library). WorldCat record id: 37364565

State geologist of Michigan.

From the description of Transcription of Douglass Houghton field notes, 1839-1840. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 80525890

From the description of [Douglass Houghton map series]. [1837?-1845?] (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 35065168

From the description of Douglass Houghton papers, 1830-1846. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34423104

From the description of Douglass Houghton papers, 1829-1845. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34420014

As Michigan's first state geologist, Douglass Houghton was responsible for the expansion of scientific knowledge of the state's geography and geology in the period immediately after statehood. The results of his work had an important influence on the economic development of the state, especially in the development of copper mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula, but also in the exploitation of salt springs and, through the Geological Survey's mapping program, in the growth of the agricultural counties in the southern part of the state.

Houghton was born in Troy, New York, in 1809, but moved shortly afterward to Fredonia, New York. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic in 1829, and became assistant professor of chemistry there. The following year he was invited to Detroit as a lecturer and remained a resident of Michigan for the rest of his life.

Houghton served as surgeon and botanist with Henry R. Schoolcraft's 1831 and 1832 expeditions to the source of the Mississippi River. He practiced medicine in Detroit for several years and helped organize the Detroit Young Men's Society in 1833, becoming the society's second president.

In 1837 Houghton persuaded the state legislature to establish a geological survey to conduct a comprehensive study of Michigan's natural resources. He was appointed the first state geologist the same year. During the summers of the following years, Houghton and his assistants, chiefly Bela Hubbard, Sylvester Higgins, and William Burt, conducted field work in the northern parts of the state: in 1838 the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan shores of the Lower Peninsula were surveyed; in 1839 the eastern and southern parts of the Upper Peninsula from Sault Ste. Marie to Green Bay; in 1840 the Lake Superior coast and the copper region of Keweenaw Point; in 1841 the Michigan-Wisconsin boundary, the Ontonagon River area, and the Marquette iron region.

Houghton proposed in 1843 that the U.S. land survey of the Upper Peninsula be combined with the state geological survey of the area. The following summer he contracted to perform the combined surveys. While engaged in the survey of the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1845 Houghton drowned in a fall storm on Lake Superior.

After Houghton's death, the surveys he had contracted to do were taken over by Hubbard, Higgins, and William Ives. In 1846 Hubbard and Burt edited and published a report on the copper region based on Houghton's notes from his 1845 survey.

From the guide to the Douglass Houghton Papers, 1829-1845, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

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Subjects:

  • Geology
  • Geologists
  • Copper mines and mining
  • Surveys
  • Geologists--Biography
  • Geology--Wisconsin--Maps
  • Geology--Michigan--Maps
  • Geology--Michigan
  • Geology--Minnesota--Maps
  • Surveyors
  • Surveyors--Michigan

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  • Kent County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Mississippi River (as recorded)
  • Minnesota (as recorded)
  • Michigan (as recorded)
  • Houghton County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Isle Royale (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Huron County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Oceana County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Huron County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Menominee County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Alpena County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Mackinac County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Newaygo County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Houghton County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • New York (State) (as recorded)
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  • Michigan--Upper Peninsula (as recorded)
  • Gratiot County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Iosco County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan (as recorded)
  • Mason County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Delta County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Superior, Lake (as recorded)
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  • Marquette (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Chippewa County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Muskegon County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Iosco County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Menominee County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Mackinac County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Ontonagon County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Presque Isle County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Arenac County (Mich.) (as recorded)
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  • Wisconsin (as recorded)
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  • Superior, Lake, Region (as recorded)
  • Baraga County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Luce County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Superior, Lake (as recorded)
  • Mason County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Kent County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Lower Peninsula (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Chippewa County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Bay County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Keweenaw County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan--Upper Peninsula (as recorded)
  • Muskegon County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Upper Peninsula (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Arenac County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Manistee County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Keweenaw Peninsula (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Isle Royale (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Gogebic County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Kalamazoo County (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Michigan (as recorded)
  • Keweenaw County (Mich.) (as recorded)