Challenge Focus: Harry S. Ladd

We’re so excited that our #FossilStories Citizen Science Challenge was successfully completed on October 12, with 252 pages from 9 field books fully transcribed and reviewed in just 3.5 days! Be sure to tune into the behind-the-scenes tour of Smithsonian fossil collections with Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, via the BHL Periscope on October 26 as a reward for the successful completion of the challenge. More details to come on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the journals in the challenge is from Harry Stephen Ladd (1899-1982), a geologist and paleontologist who worked much of his career with the US Geological Survey. Many of his fossil specimens can be found in the Stratigraphic collections and Mollusca Cenozoic Marine Type collection at the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History. He began working in the field in the 1920’s and eventually became a leading authority in the geology of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. His two volume diary documents some of his earliest work in the Pacific region. In 1934, he went into the field for the second time with J. Edward Hoffmeister of the University of Rochester to study the coral formations in Fiji (in the 1960s he even used aerial observations made from a helicopter the document the shape and character of Fiji reefs). This work would go on to stimulate the debate about “the coral problem” of how did islands and atolls form. There were two competing theories in the early twentieth century — Darwin’s and Reginald Daly’s.

In the midst of this work, Ladd writes about his experiences in the field, with local communities, and getting married. All of this is shared as a series of letters to his colleague “Edward.”

Volunteers working on the #FossilFossick challenge uncovered some awesome quotes from Ladd within his field book. For instance:


Thanks to our awesome volunteers for the incredible information that they pulled out of Ladd’s field books. Stay tuned to our blog on Friday for more highlights from the challenge!

If you would like to know more about Harry Ladd and E. J. Hoffmeister, we encourage you to check out Ladd’s field books and specimen records on Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center, his publications and field books in BHL, and Hoffmeister’s personal papers at UC San Diego.

Be sure to follow #FossilStories on Twitter and Facebook all week for more great fossil fun and more highlights from our #FossilFossick Challenge!

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Lesley Parilla is a Cataloging and Bibliographic Access Librarian at the Smithsonian Libraries. Previously, she served as the Cataloging Coordinator for The Field Book Project at Smithsonian Libraries.