Willis, Bailey, 1857-1949

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1857-03-31
Death 1949-02-19
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

After early studies in Germany, Bailey Willis attended Columbia University and was awarded the degree of Mining Engineer in 1878 and of Civil Engineer in 1879. In 1884 he began his career with the United States Geological Survey, working chiefly in the Pacific Northwest. He made geological research trips to China and Argentina, before coming to Stanford University in 1915 to succeed John C. Branner as head of the Department of Geology. Willis was a popular teacher and lecturer and taught at Stanford until his retirement in 1922.

From the description of Bailey Willis papers, circa 1900-1962. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 703381680

American geologist; chief, Latin American Division, the Inquiry, 1918.

From the description of Bailey Willis papers, 1916-1943. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754868116

Bailey taught geology at Stanford University from 1915 until 1922.

From the description of Bailey Willis letter to Margaret Cosgrave, April 25, 1941. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754866871

Bailey Willis was a geologist with the United States Geological Survey from 1884 to 1915. He was chairman of Stanford University's Geology Department from 1916 to1922. In 1903-1904 Willis led an expedition into China for the Carnegie Institution. His route took him through Austria and Russia. He traveled on the newly-built Trans-Siberian railroad and entered China from the north. In 1910 he took ship for South America to study Patagonia. After retiring from Stanford in 1922, he embarked on a series of explorations in Asia and Africa, studying geology and culture. Willis traveled extensively in India and the Philippines in the 1920s and 1930s. He also visited Japan, Sumatra, and Java. In 1929 he traveled the length of the African continent. In addition to scientific monographs, Willis published general readership travel accounts, including "Living Africa" (1930), "A Yanqui in Patagonia" (1947), and "Friendly China" (1949).

From the guide to the Bailey Willis papers, 1894-1949, (University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.)

Bailey Willis, professor of geology, graduated from Columbia University in civil engineering in 1879. Willis served in various positions as a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey from 1880 to 1916. His geological work took him to many parts of the world, such as the expedition he led for the Carnegie Institution to Northern China in 1903-04, and included studies of Patagonia and the Nahuel Huapí lake district in Argentina. He served as head of the Geology Dpartment at Stanford University from 1915 to 1922 and was renowned for his seismological research.

From the description of Papers of Bailey Willis, 1856-1957 (bulk 1880-1949). (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122540401

Bailey Willis was a geologist with the United States Geological Survey from 1884 to 1915. He was chairman of Stanford University's Geology Department from 1916 to1922. In 1903-1904 Willis led an expedition into northern China for the Carnegie Institution. In 1910 he took ship for South America to study Patagonia. After retiring from Stanford in 1922, he embarked on a series of explorations in Asia and Africa, studying geology and culture. Willis traveled extensively in India and the Philippines in the 1920s and 1930s. He also visited Japan, Sumatra, and Java. In 1929 he traveled the length of the African continent. In addition to scientific monographs, Willis published general readership travel accounts, including "Living Africa" (1930), "A Yanqui in Patagonia" (1947), and "Friendly China" (1949).

From the description of Bailey Willis papers, 1894-1949. (University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center). WorldCat record id: 755015351

Biographical/Historical Sketch

After early studies in Germany, Bailey Willis attended Columbia University and was awarded the degree of Mining Engineer in 1878 and of Civil Engineer in 1879. In 1884 he began his career with the United States Geological Survey, working chiefly in the Pacific Northwest. He made geological research trips to China and Argentina, before coming to Stanford University in 1915 to succeed John C. Branner as head of the Department of Geology. Willis was a popular teacher and lecturer and taught at Stanford until his retirement in 1922.

From the guide to the Bailey Willis papers, circa 1900-1962, (Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

Biography

Bailey Willis (1857-1949), geologist, now is principally known for his research on earthquakes and earthquake resistant building. He was the son of poet and journalist Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-1867) and Cornelia (Grinnell) Willis (1826?-1904) of the prominent New England Grinnell family. Their children were: Cornelius Grinnell Willis (known as Nelt or Grinnell), Edith (Willis) Grinnell (who married her cousin, Lawrence Grinnell), Lilian (Willis) Boit, and Bailey. Imogen was Bailey's half sister, being the daughter of N. P. Willis and his first wife.

After the death of N. P. Willis, Cornelia took Bailey to Germany where he received a strict German education. He returned to New York and attended Columbia University, graduating with one degree in Geology (E.M.) in 1878 and another in engineering (C.E.) in 1879. He was recommended for a position in the United States Geological Survey and served under Raphael Pumpelly. He explored for coal fields in the Puget Sound area, worked on the Northern Transcontinental Survey (1881-1884) and for the Northern Pacific Railway.

In 1882 Willis married his cousin, Altona Holstein Grinnell. They had two children, Marion (who died in infancy) and Hope (later married to Seward Rathbun). Altona died in 1896 and in 1898 Willis married Margaret Delight Baker, daughter of anatomy professor, Dr. Frank Baker. They had three children: Cornelius Grinnell Willis (known as Neal), Robin Willis (often called Bob), and Margaret (addressed as Gretl or later, Laddie, who married Donald F. Smith).

From 1885-1892 Willis served on the Appalachian Division of the U.S. Geological Survey; from 1896-1900 as Assistant to the Geologist and later as Geologist in Charge (1900-1902). In 1903-04 he was sent by the Carnegie Institution of Washington for geological exploration in China. From 1907-1910 he worked on compiling the Geological Map of North America. From 1911-14 he became consulting geologist to the minister of public works of Argentina studying economic resources in Patagonia, railroad routes over the Andes and making surveys that helped establish Argentina's National Park of Nahuel Huapi in the southern Andes. He was professor of geology at Stanford University from 1915 until his retirement in 1922. He became research associate of the Carnegie Institution carrying on investigations on earthquakes in Chile (1923), the Orient, Palestine and Cyprus (1927), East Africa (1929) and later was in Japan, the Philippine Islands, and India (1937).

During World War I he was chief of the Latin-American division of the Commission of Inquiry headed by Col. Edward M. House in preparation for the Paris Peace Conference. During World War II he gave assistance to the armed services through information and maps and he returned to the classroom to teach geology at Stanford University.

Willis is known chiefly for his studies of earthquakes (with the related fields of faults, rift valleys, and quake-resistant building construction.) He opposed the theory of Gondwanaland and preferred the idea of isthmian links between continents. He was especially interested in the dynamics of the living globe--isostasy of land masses, changes caused by vulcanism, radioactivity, etc. Bailey Willis was the center of many controversies; he eagerly expounded his points of view and was quick to apologize if proved wrong.

Willis wrote innumerable reports and articles as well as books, including Geologic Structures, Living Africa, A Yanqui in Patagonia, and Friendly China. He received many honors and awards, including an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Berlin (1910) and Sc.D. from Columbia University (1929), the Gold Medal of the Société Géographique de France (1910) and the Commander Order of Leopold II (1933). He belonged to scientific organizations such as: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Geological Society of America (president in 1928), Seismological Society of America (president, 1921-1926), American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cosmos Club and Explorers' Club as well as many others. His interests covered a wide range: his avocation was landscape painting, his geographical studies covered the entire globe, he was an explorer, public speaker, family man, and teacher.

From the guide to the Bailey Willis Papers, 1856-1957, (bulk 1880-1949), (The Huntington Library)

Biographical/Historical Note

  • March 31, 1857: Born, New York, U.S.
  • 1878 - 1879 : Graduated Columbia University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1878 and in civil engineering in 1879
  • 1881 - 1884 : Survey geologist for the Northern Pacific Railroad
  • 1884 - 1915 : Worked for the USGS
  • 1889: Named director of the Appalachian division
  • 1893: Author of The Mechanics of Appalachian Structure
  • 1895 - 1902 : Lectured on geology at Johns Hopkins University
  • 1900: Appointed as head of the Division of Areal Geology of the United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • 1903: Led an expedition to northern China, an experience later described in his book Friendly China
  • 1910 - 1914 : Consulted for the government of Argentina, an experience later recorded in his book a Yanqui in Patagonia
  • 1910: Awarded the Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie of France
  • 1915 - 1922 : Professor and chairman of the geology department at Stanford University
  • 1918: Served as chief, Latin American Division, the Inquiry
  • 1920: Elected to the National Academy of the Sciences
  • 1921 - 1926 : Served as a President of the Seismological Society of America
  • 1936: Awarded the Legion of Honor, Belgium
  • 1944: Awarded the Penrose Medal by the Geological Society of America
  • 1949: Died, Palo Alto, California

From the guide to the Bailey Willis papers, 1916-1943, (Hoover Institution Archives)

Bailey Willis (1857-1949) was a geological engineer who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey. He was born in New York and studied at Columbia University, earning degrees in mechanical and civil engineering. In 1879, he began working with the Northern Pacific Railroad, under the direction of Raphael Pumpelly, and surveyed regions of Appalachia and the Northwestern U.S. He visited Mt. Rainier in 1882, and later contributed to its designation as a National Park.

Willis began working for the U.S. Geological Survey in 1884, spending the next decade working and researching in the Appalachian Mountains and throughout the eastern U.S. His publications on the region's geology garnered international attention from scientists. In 1903, he led an expedition funded by the Carnegie Institution to northern China, an area previously unexplored by geologists. He also traveled and mapped geology throughout South America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Later in his career he lectured at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, retiring from teaching in 1922. He remained an active explorer and geologist, however, until his death in 1949.

Willis married Altona Grinnell in 1882; the couple had one child before she died in 1896. Willis remarried in 1898 to Margaret Baker. They had three children.

This historical note is drawn from Eliot Blackwelder's biographical memoir "Bailey Willis: 1857-1949," published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1961.

From the guide to the Bailey Willis papers, 1882-1896, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

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Subjects:

  • Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations--Submarine
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • Geology--Study and teaching (Higher)
  • Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920) e| United States Division of Territorial, Economic and Political Intelligence
  • Tacna--Arica question
  • World War, 1914-1918--United States
  • World War, 1914-1918--Peace
  • Seismology--Research
  • Earthquakes
  • Geology--Research
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Scientists--Correspondence
  • Geologists--Archives
  • faculty
  • Bridges--Design and construction
  • Military topography

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Philippines (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • China (as recorded)
  • San Andreas Fault (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • Japan (as recorded)
  • Japan (as recorded)
  • Peru (as recorded)
  • Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, Calif.) (as recorded)
  • China (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • California--San Francisco (as recorded)
  • China (as recorded)
  • Chile (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Chile (as recorded)
  • Peru (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • California--San Francisco Bay (as recorded)
  • Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, Calif.) (as recorded)
  • Argentina (as recorded)
  • Appalachian Mountains (as recorded)
  • Philippines (as recorded)
  • San Andreas Fault (Calif.) (as recorded)