William Morris Davis

About William Morris Davis

Who is it?: Geographer, Geologist, Meteorologist
Birth Day: February 12, 1850
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, United States
Died On: February 5, 1934(1934-02-05) (aged 83)\nPasadena, California
Birth Sign: Pisces
Known for: cycle of erosion; peneplains; often called the "father of American geography"
Awards: Hayden Memorial Geological Award (1917) Vega Medal (1920) Penrose Medal (1931)
Fields: Geography, Geomorphology, Geology, Meteorology
Influenced: Charles Cotton Jovan Cvijić Douglas Wilson Johnson Walther Penck Hans Reusch

William Morris Davis Net Worth

William Morris Davis was bornon February 12, 1850 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, United States, is Geographer, Geologist, Meteorologist. William Morris Davis was an American geographer, geologist, and meteorologist, who founded the science of geomorphology—the study of landforms. He is often referred to as the “Father of American Geography”. He began his career as a meteorologist with the national Observatory at Córdoba, Argentina, and in three years, acquired a position with Harvard University, where he continued his employment for the next 36 years. Quite early in his career, he became interested in the study of landforms. His publication ‘The Rivers and Valleys of Pennsylvania’ (1889) introduced the ‘Davisian system’ of landscape analysis, which became his most celebrated work in physical geography. In this publication, he suggested that the physical features of the land are the consequence of a long term, continual erosion and that this sequential change through time was made of a cycle of erosion, which according to him was crucial in understanding the present landscape and geological history. Post retirement, he became a visiting lecturer to several universities, dedicated many hours to writing and field studies, and conducted in-depth researches of coral reefs and coral islands; the learnings of which were published in ‘The Coral Reef Problem’ (1928). During his lifetime, he published more than 500 works on Geography.
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💰 Net worth: Under Review

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Biography/Timeline

1869

He was born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of Edward M. Davis and Maria Mott Davis (a daughter of the women's advocate Lucretia Mott). He graduated from Harvard University in 1869 and received a Master of Engineering in the following year.

1879

Davis initially worked in Córdoba, Argentina as a Meteorologist for three years and after working as an assistant to Nathaniel Shaler, he became an instructor in geology at Harvard, in 1879. The same year he married Ellen B. Warner from Springfield, Massachusetts. While Davis never completed his PhD, he was appointed to his first full professorship in 1890 and remained in academia and teaching throughout his life.

1889

Davis' most influential scientific contribution was the "geographical cycle", first defined in his 1889 article, The Rivers and Valleys of Pennsylvania, which was a model of how rivers erode uplifted land to base level. His cycle of erosion suggests that (larger) rivers have three main stages of development, generally divided into youthful, mature and old-age stages. Each stage has distinct landforms and other properties associated with them, which can occur along the length of a river's upper, middle, and lower course.

1904

He was a founder of the Association of American Geographers in 1904, and heavily involved with the National Geographic Society in its early years, writing a number of articles for the magazine. Davis retired from Harvard in 1911. He served as President of the Geological Society of America in 1911. He was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1919.

1911

Though the cycle of erosion was a crucial early contribution to the development of geomorphology, many of Davis' theories regarding landscape evolution, sometimes termed 'Davisian geomorphology', were heavily criticized by later geomorphologists. When Davis retired from Harvard in 1911, the study of landscape evolution was nearly monopolized by his theories. It was characteristic of Davis to react violently and disdainfully to criticism, particularly to the German criticism in the 1920s headed by Walther Penck; it was also his characteristic to choose to attack the most vulnerable points of that criticism. Since that time, with a less dogmatic approach and greater knowledge, some authors note that Penck's and Davis' ideas have become more compatible and even complementary since the advent of modern tectonic theory. They claim that Davis' ideas are more applicable near active margins where tectonics are "cataclysmic", and Penck's ideas fit better in Models of passive margins and continental platforms.

1914

After his first wife died, Davis married Mary M. Wyman from Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1914, and, after her death, he married Lucy L. Tennant from Milton, Massachusetts in 1928, who survived him.

1984

He died in Pasadena, California, shortly before his 84th birthday. His Cambridge home is a National Historic Landmark.