Well written, the result of years of painstaking research, this biography tells the story of one of the most remarkable...



Well written, the result of years of painstaking research, this biography tells the story of one of the most remarkable Americans of the last century, Clarence King, founder of the U.S. Geological Survey, explorer, mountaineer, mining expert and social charmer. Born in Newport, R.I. in 1842, son of a New England-China merchant, he attended the Yale Scientific School and in 1863 went to California, where he worked under an outstanding geologist, Brewer, in a geological survey of the state, the Whitney Survey, exploring unknown regions of the Sierra, climbing and naming many mountains, among them Mount Whitney. In 1872 he published his now almost forgotten masterpiece, Mountaineering In The Sierra Nevada. Through his knowledge of mineralogy he became a mining expert and uncovered the ""Arizona Diamond Mine"" swindle; as one of the best American geologists he was in charge of the Survey of the Fortieth Parallel, of which he left no personal record. In 1879 he founded the U.S. Geological Survey and was its first head. Brilliant, charming, fearless, the close friend of such men as William Dean Howells and Henry Adams, King himself left almost no records of his own career, which in latter years was less spectacular than at its beginning, at least from a scientific point of view; his interest in money led him into some doubtful ventures; his love for a Negro girl resulted, when he was nearly fifty, in an illegal marriage and the birth of five illegitimate children; only when he was dying, in 1900, did he reveal to his ""wife,"" to whom he was devoted, his true name. Carefully documented from endless sources the book is too long for quick and easy reading but it will delight devotees of biography and students of the scientific development of the West and should appeal to mountaineers of both the armchair and active variety. It will be a permanent and valuable addition to American scientific and historical libraries.

Pub Date: July 29, 1958


Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1958