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Record number: WCP2208

Sent by:
John Casper Branner
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
21 February 1894

Sent by John Casper Branner, Dept of Geology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, USA to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 21 February 1894.

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna


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LETTER (WCP2208.2098)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46436 f. 335
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the John Casper Branner Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information







Stanford University (p. o.), California,

Feb[ruary] 21 1894.

My dear Dr. Wallace:-

I thank you for the list of books relating to River pollution; it was just what I needed.

I have read your very interesting articles in the Fortnightly Review2,3 with great pleasure. You make the case a pretty plain one, and if I could give you the data you mention from direct observation on a stream flowing from an Alaskan glacier I think you might properly call the case closed. I believe I can get observations made in Alaska for a month, but it would cost more than I could raise to carry them over a year. But there are two difficulties in the way of such observations: 1st, it would be necessary to find a glacier that received had no debris upon its upper surface; 2nd, the stream flowing from it would have to be above the reach of tides. For if there were material brought down on the surface the sediments discharged would not fairly represent ice erosion, and if the tides reached the ice there would be almost insurmountable difficulties introduced into the discharge observations. Will you not make some suggestions in regard to the work? I shall undertake the work in Alaska if there is a reasonable chance of getting trustworthy results.

In 1833 we had a pretty warm discussion of on the subject of glacier erosion in this country. You will find a short account of it in Science Vol. II. Sept[ember]. 7 1883, p[age]. 320, and in [[2]] the Proc[eedings]. [of the] Am[erican]. Ass[ociation]. [for the] Adv[ancement]. [of] Sci[ence]. Vol XXXII, 1883 pp [pages] 200-201. Newberry4 in the latter place gives some interesting figures, and in the former paper Lesley5 gives it as his opinion that ice work is comparable to sand-papering a board. He gives this estimate of the comparative values of the agents mentioned

Cutting power of ice = 1.

" " " rainwater = 10.

" " " acidulated water = 100.

" " " ice set with stones = 1000.

" " " water set with stones = 10,000.

Newberry however, spoke of this table as the "figments of the imagination"[.]

In the Sixth Annual Rep[or]t. of the Director of the U[nited]. S[tates]. Geol[ogical]. Survey (1884-5) p[age]. 208, Chamberlin6, who is facile princeps7 on glacial geology in this country, shows the amount of drift in parts of the northern U[nited]. S[tates]. He and I have talked over this subject more or less, and as he confines himself usually to the facts that bear on it, what he says is always valuable.

G. F. Wright8 is a book-maker, and whatever field-work he does is of a very slip-shod kind, so that no importance can be attached to his opinions. Lelsley Lesley who has always opposed the idea of great erosion by ice, presents what he considers as evidence on his side on pp. [pages] 12 [sic] and XIII and XIV of Report Z (Terminal Moraine) of the Pennsylvania survey9. This consists of the two profiles of a mountain, one where it that has been glaciated and the other where it has not -- necessarily very shaky evidence. Tarr10 has just called attention to the fact that Cayuga Lake in New York State is in a Ro rock basin. His paper hasn’t been published yet.

With best wishes, | very truly y[ou]rs | J. C. Branner11 [signature]


1. Page numbered 335 in pencil in top RH corner

2. Wallace, A. R. (1893) The Ice Age and Its Work. I. Erratic Blocks and Ice-sheets Fortnightly Review 54: 616-633.

3. Wallace, A. R. (1893) The Ice Age and Its Work. II. Erosion of Lake Basins Fortnightly Review 54: 750-774.

4. Newberry, John Strong (1822-1892). American geologist, physician, explorer and author. Professor of geology and paleontology in the School of Mines, Columbia College (now Columbia University) 1866-1890, where he created a museum of over 100,000 specimens.

5. Lesley, J. Peter (1819-1903). American geologist. He made extensive and important researches in the coal, oil and iron fields of the United States and Canada and became State geologist of Pennsylvania in 1874. He was a professor of geology at the University of Pennsylvania 1872-1878.

6. Chamberlin, Thomas Chrowder (1843-1928). American geologist and educator. His geologic mapping work in southeastern Wisconsin led him to recognize multiple episodes of glaciation during the Pleistocene. In 1876 became chief geologist for the Wisconsin geological survey, and head of the glacial division of the US Geological Survey in 1881. In 1892 he set up the department of Geology at the University of Chicago and remained as a professor until 1918.

7. An obvious leader (Lat.)

8. Wright, George Frederick (1838-1921). American geologist and a professor at Oberlin Theological Seminary, Ohio. He published works in geology, history and theology. He was assistant geologist with the Pennsylvania Geological Survey 1881-1882, and with the US Geological Survey 1884-1892.

9. Lewis H.C. (1884) Report on the terminal moraine in Pennsylavania and Western New York. Pennsylvania Geological Survey, 2nd ser., Report on Progress, Z, lvi, 299 pp.

10. Tarr, Ralph Stockman (1864-1912). American geographer. In 1892, he served as assistant in geology at Cornell University, where he was professor of dynamic geology and physical geography from 1897-1912. His book, with Lawrence Martin, Alaskan Glacier Studies was published posthumously in 1914.

11. Branner, John Casper (1850-1922). American geologist and academic. He was State geologist of Arkansas in 1887 and Chair of the departments of botany and geology at Indiana University 1885-1891. In 1891, he was appointed Professor and Chair of the department of geology at the newly opened Stanford University, California.

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