World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Edward Hitchcock

Edward Hitchcock
Born 24 May 1793
Deerfield, Massachusetts
Died February 27, 1864(1864-02-27) (aged 70)
Amherst, Massachusetts
Citizenship United States
Fields Geology
Natural history
Alma mater Deerfield Academy
Influenced Charles Henry Hitchcock
Author abbrev. (botany) E.Hitchc.
Spouse Orra White Hitchcock

Edward Hitchcock (May 24, 1793 – February 27, 1864) was an American geologist and the third President of Amherst College (1845–1854).


  • Life 1
  • Paleontological chart 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Writings 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Born to poor parents, he attended newly founded Deerfield Academy, where he was later principal, from 1815 to 1818. In 1821 he was ordained as a Congregationalist pastor and served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Conway, Massachusetts, 1821-25. He left the ministry to become Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Amherst College. He held that post from 1825 to 1845, serving as Professor of Natural Theology and Geology from 1845 until his death in 1864. In 1845, Hitchcock became President of the College, a post he held until 1854. As president, Hitchcock was responsible for Amherst's recovery from severe financial difficulties. He is also credited with developing the college's scientific resources and establishing its reputation for scientific teaching.

In addition to his positions at Amherst, Hitchcock was a well-known early geologist. He ran the first geological survey of Massachusetts, and in 1830 was appointed state geologist of Massachusetts (he held the post until 1844). He also played a role in the geological surveys of New York and Vermont. His chief project, however, was natural theology, which attempted to unify and reconcile science and religion, focusing on geology. His major work in this area was The Religion of Geology and Its Connected Sciences (Boston, 1851). In this book, he sought out ways to re-interpret the Bible to agree with the latest geological theories. For example, knowing that the earth was at least hundreds of thousands of years old, vastly older than the 6,000 years posited by Biblical scholars, Hitchcock devised a way to read the original Hebrew so that a single letter in Genesis—a "v", meaning "afterwards"—implied the vast timespans during which the earth was formed.

Hitchcock left his mark in paleontology. He published papers on fossilized tracks in the Connecticut Valley, including Eubrontes and Otozoum, that were later associated with dinosaurs, though he believed, with a certain prescience, that they were made by gigantic ancient birds. In the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet he established a remarkable collection of fossil footmarks. His son, Edward "Doc" Hitchcock, named one of the earliest dinosaurs discovered in America, Megadactylus polyzelus. Later it was reclassified as the type specimen of Anchisaurus polyzelus (ACM 41109), a prosauropod. This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation E.Hitchc. when citing a botanical name.[1]

As he had researched the geologic lake which once filled the Connecticut River basin, this prehistoric lake was named after him. Since he had done geological research on the Holyoke Range, one of the mountains there, Mount Hitchcock, was named after him.[2]

From 1856-1861, Hitchcock was the State Geologist for Vermont.[3]

His collections, a bust and portrait can be viewed at the Amherst College Museum of Natural History. The Archives and Special Collections at Amherst holds his papers.[4]

In 1821, he married Orra White Hitchcock, one of the earliest women botanical and scientific illustrators in the U.S. The two worked closely together, and she contributed more than 1,000 illustrations to his many scientific publications.

Paleontological chart

Fold-out paleontological chart of Edward Hitchcock in 'Elementary Geology' (1840)

He inserted a paleontological chart in his Elementary Geology (1840).[5] It shows a branching diagram of the plant and animal kingdom against a geological background. He referred to it as a tree. This 'tree of life' is the earliest known version that incorporates paleontological and geological information.

Hitchcock saw a Deity as the agent of change. He explicitly rejected both atheistic evolution, and a religious six-day creation. He perceived that new species were introduced by a Deity at the right time in the history of the earth. The chart is present in all editions between 1840 and 1859. After Darwin (1859) published his Origin of Species, a tree of life image was generally interpreted as an evolutionary tree. In the 1860 edition of Elementary Geology Hitchcock dropped the chart. In 1863 Hitchcock wrote an article in which he refuted Darwin’s theory of natural selection. After his death in 1864, his son Charles Henry Hitchcock (1836–1919) published a new edition (1870) also without a paleontological Chart. Charles then published books and articles of his own.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Brummitt, R. K.; C. E. Powell (1992). Authors of Plant Names.  
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
  5. ^ J. David Archibald (2009): Edward Hitchcock’s Pre-Darwinian (1840) 'Tree of Life', Journal of the History of Biology (2009) 42:561–592.
  6. ^ "More on Charles Hitchcock". Government Information Department, University of New Hampshire Library web site.  


  • Geology of the Connecticut Valley (1823)
  • Catalogue of the Plants within Twenty Miles of Amherst (1829)
  • Elementary Geology, 1840. (31 editions)
  • The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences
  • Dyspepsy Forestalled and Resisted, Or, Lectures on Diet, Regimen, and Employment
  • Lectures on the Peculiar Phenomena of the Four Seasons (1850)
  • Reports on the Geology of Massachusetts (1833-35-38-41)
  • Outline of the Geology of the Globe and of the United States in Particular with Sketches of Characteristic American Fossils (1853)
  • Illustrations of Surface Geology (1857)
  • Reminiscences of Amherst College (1863)

Further reading

  • Jordan D. Marché, II. Restoring a "Public Standard" to Accuracy: Authority, Social Class, and Utility in the American Almanac Controversy, 1814-1818. Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 693–710
  • Curious Footprints: Professor Hitchcock's Dinosaur Tracks & Other Natural History Treasures at Amherst College (Amherst College Press, 2006), by Nancy Pick, with photographs by Frank Ward.

External links

  • "Early Discoveries of Dinosaurs From North America and the Significance of the Springfield Armory Dinosaur Site", by Vincent L. Santucci.
  • "Edward and Orra White Hitchcock at Amherst College" gives an overview of the holdings of Hitchcock material available in the Archives & Special Collections and elsewhere at Amherst.
  • National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir
Academic offices
Preceded by
Heman Humphrey
President of Amherst College
Succeeded by
William Augustus Stearns
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.