The 1879 act establishing the United States Geological Survey (USGS) declares, "And all collections of rocks, minerals, soils, and fossils, and objects of natural history, archaeology, and ethnology, made by the Coast and Interior Survey, the Geological Survey, or by any other parties for the Government of the United States, when no longer needed for investigations in progress, shall be deposited in the National Museum." Many of the paleontologists affiliated with the USGS Paleontology and Stratigraphy Branch have been stationed at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to study and care for the national collections. This close working relationship between the USGS and the NMNH has resulted in the Smithsonian Archives acquiring records and special collections documenting paleontological work of the Survey and its scientists.
The papers of George Herbert Girty primarily consist of correspondence documenting his paleontological research and his official work for the USGS. A large file of general correspondence contains letters exchanged between Girty and many of the prominent geologists and paleontologists of his era. The letters concern his research on Carboniferous invertebrates; his USGS work, especially reports on specimens sent in for identification; field work of USGS geologists and paleontologists; and the preparation, publication, and review of scientific manuscripts. The collection also includes a partial file of Girty's outgoing correspondence, 1897-1915. These letters document his field work, 1898-1915, as well as his research and USGS affairs. A small amount of biographical and autobiographical information on Girty is also found in the collection.
George Herbert Girty (1869-1939) was an invertebrate paleontologist specializing in the study of Carboniferous formations and fauna. He was educated at Yale University, receiving the A.B. in 1892 and the Ph.D. in 1894. After a post-graduate year at Stanford University, Girty was appointed Paleontologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on April 9, 1895. He remained with the USGS for the remainder of his career -- an association that lasted over 44 years. While best known for his research on Permian faunas, Girty was also an expert on Mississippian and Pennsylvanian invertebrates of the western United States. He studied most of the important Permian formations in the United States and Alaska and spent several seasons with USGS field parties in the mid-western and western United States.
For additional biographical information on Girty see "Memorial to George Herbert Girty," by James Steele Williams, Proceedings of the Geological Society of America for 1939, pp. 195-205, June 1940.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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