Isabel Deming Wasson (Bassett) (1897 - 1994)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About Isabel Deming Wasson (Bassett)

Isabel Bassett Wasson (1897–1994) was one of the first female petroleum geologists in the United States, the first female ranger at Yellowstone National Park, and also one of the first interpretive rangers (male or female) hired by the National Park Service.


Wasson was born Isabel Bassett in Brooklyn, NY on January 11, 1897, daughter of urban planner Edward Bassett and Annie Preston Bassett, and sister of inventor and engineer Preston Bassett. Wasson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College in 1918, majoring in history so she could take a wide range of science courses. She took classes in geology after graduation at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She met her future husband, petroleum geologist Theron Wasson, whom she married in 1920, while working towards a master's degree in geology at Columbia University. Wasson finished her master's degree after having three children, in 1934. Wasson worked as a petroleum geologist in her husband’s office at the Pure Oil Company for several years. After 1928 she spent over 50 years in River Forest, IL, teaching science in the local public schools, lecturing, bird watching (ornithology), and mentoring generations of young naturalists. Wasson also taught classes at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. She died in La Grange Park, IL, in 1994.

Wasson became one of the first interpretive rangers hired by the National Park Service, and the first female ranger at Yellowstone National Park. She was hired when Horace Albright, then the Park Superintendent, heard her lecture on geology to a group of her family and friends who were visiting the park in the summer of 1919 on a tour of national parks organized by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Albright invited her to return in the summer of 1920 to lead interpretive tours and give lectures about the geology of the park, which she did. He invited her to return again in the summer of 1921, but she declined because she was pregnant. She inquired about returning in 1922 but others had been hired to do similar work.

Her daughter Elizabeth Wasson married conservationist E. Alexander Bergstrom.

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