Dr. Florence Bascom

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Dr. Florence Bascom

Birthplace: Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: June 18, 1945 (82)
Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States (Apoplexy)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Rev John Bascom, Jr. and Emaline 'Emma' Bascom
Sister of George Mooar Bascom; Jean Jennie Bascom; Emma Bascom and Mabel Bascom

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Dr. Florence Bascom


Dr. Florence Bascom was the first woman geologist to join the United States Geological Survey. In addition, she was also the first female to obtain a Ph.D. in geology from a U.S. university and the first woman receiving a Ph.D. in any subject area from Johns Hopkins University.



Florence Bascom (July 14, 1862 – June 18, 1945) was the first woman hired by the United States Geological Survey, known for her innovative use of petrography in studying crystalline rocks and identifying their origins.

Early life and education

She was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts on July 14, 1862. Her father, John Bascom, was a professor at Williams College, and later President of University of Wisconsin-Madison and her mother, Emma Curtiss Bascom, was a women's rights activist involved in the suffrage movement. Her parents were steadfast supporters of women's rights and encouraged women to obtain a college education.

Florence Bascom earned a B.A. and a B.Litt. degree in 1882, and her B.S. in 1884 from the University of Wisconsin, and stayed there to obtain her M.S. degree in 1887. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University, which she did in 1893. While studying at Johns Hopkins she was forced to sit behind a screen so as not to disturb the men. She was the second American woman to earn a Ph.D. in geology. She started her college teaching career in 1884 at the Hampton School of Negroes and American Indians (currently known as Hampton University), working there for a year before going back to university of Wisconsin for her masters. Once completed with her masters she taught mathematics and science at Rockford College from 1887-1889, and later at Ohio State University from 1893 to 1895. Leaving Ohio State University to work at Bryn Mawr College where she could pursue being able to conduct original research, and teach higher level Geology courses. There she founded the Department of Geology, and started a graduate program that trained many of the first women geologists of the 20th century. Bascom retired from teaching in 1928 but continued to work at the U.S. Geological Survey until 1936.


Bascom received the position of assistant geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in 1896, the first woman to be appointed. From 1896 to 1908, she was an associate editor of the magazine American Geologist. Bascom was promoted to geologist in 1909 by the USGS and assigned the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region of the United States. A great deal of her work involved the crystalline rocks and geomorphology of this region. This work is still influential in the 21st century. She created well-known U.S. Geological Survey folios on Philadelphia (1909), Trenton (1909), Elkton-Wilmington (1920), Quakertown-Doylestown (1931), and Honeybrook-Phoenixville (1938). She was given 4 stars in the first edition of American Men and Women of Science (called American Men of Science at the time), a very high honor for a scientist of any gender.

Bascom's dissertation, on the re-identification of certain rocks thought to be sedimentary as actually metamorphic rocks formed from lava, used cutting-edge petrographic techniques and was highly influential to the field of geology.

She had several students who would become members of the USGS: Eleanora Bliss Knopf, Anna Jonas Stose, Louise Kingsley, Katharine Fowler-Billings, Mary Porter, and Julie Gardner, as well as Ida Helen Ogilvie.

In 1894, Florence Bascom was the second woman elected to the Geological Society of America. She became a councilor in 1924 and a vice-president of the society in 1930. She was a member of the United States National Research Council and of the American Geophysical Union. The Geological Society of Washington allowed her to present a paper, the first woman who was afforded that honor.

Florence Bascom died of a stroke on June 18, 1945.

Named in honor of Florence Bascom

Bascom Crater on Venus

6084 Bascom, an asteroid discovered in 1985.



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Dr. Florence Bascom's Timeline

July 14, 1862
Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States
June 18, 1945
Age 82
Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States