Choosing A Field of Concentration


The supreme faculty of the human brain is imagination--the ability to see things as they are and not as they appear to be. Fact is the raw material on which imagination works. Knowledge is only the beginning of wisdom; imagination is power. The chief aim of Harvard College is not so much to gain knowledge of this or that subject as it is to gain the power to understand. Growth in understanding means the strengthening of the imagination.

Stretches Imagination

Hence geology in college is a cultural study of the first rank. From the opening lecture of the elementary course to the end of the most advanced course for professionals, the student must exercise his imaginative muscles. He must think in terms of huge masses, largely or wholly invisible; of gigantic forces at work; of the flow of time, measured in millions of years; of a time scale affecting the whole basis of his philosophy. Geology is a leader among those college studies, which automatically build up the imaginative faculty. This science has long been prominent in Harvard College, not only because it is interesting, but also because its students learn by long-continued practice to visualize reality. They are bound to forget details in the earths structures and processes. They cannot lose the power gained in study. That same power remains, tending to give sounder judgment in political struggle, business venture, or social activity.

Is Pleasant Study

Moreover, the cultivated man can ill afford to forego the lifetime pleasure of seeing nature with his eyes open. Ideally geology should be the avocation of every college graduate. During his daily walks, from railway train, steamer, or motorcar, he can see the earth evolving; he can see her majestic rhythms, her wonderful adaptations to life, her profound control over human history. Such permanent enrichment of life comes to the man who elects a full course in general geology. Thousands of Harvard graduates can testify to the truth of this statement. It must be remembered, too, that geology is a young science, which has only begun its cultural value. As the science continues its vigorous growth, with its constantly increasing proofs of its deep meaning in the fundamental problems of nature and human life, it will become steadily clearer to faculty and students that an introduction to geology is indispensable to every cultivated man. The existing rules of distribution permit all Harvard undergraduates to gain contact with the subject. Concentration in geology is another matter.


If the student desires to learn how to think, to understand; that is, if he wants an education in the best sense of the word, he may concentrate in geology. Yet he should note also the advisability, of choosing other, fundamental studies. Before entering far into geology he should have had a good introduction to physics, chemistry, and biology; preferably also astronomy. Choice of courses in these allied, fundamental sciences is facilitated by the provision that two of the six courses approved for concentration in geology may be taken in allied departments. Within the Division of Geology the four required courses may be so grouped as to stress any one of three phases of the broad subject; the evolution of the earth and its inhabitants; the nature and origin of rock formations, including ore and valuable constituents of the earth's crust; and the physical environment of life, including climate. Under such conditions concentration in geology coupled of course with the distribution of studies now required, offers an excellent training for citizenship and practical life in general.

Teaches Meaning of Profession

However when a man concentrates in geology, he is almost inevitably led to ask himself whether he shall devote his life to this branch of science. The attractiveness of the outdoor study and the fascination of its many problems become more compelling as course after course is taken; at the same time the student gets to know better what a professional career means. This knowledge is of great value to him, and probably in most cases it cannot be obtained in college without concentration. At soon as the decision to become a professional geologist is reached, the man should plan the rest of his college courses accordingly. No fixed formula for the adjustment of courses can be given, since so much depends on the kind of training, which has already been secured in the college and during previous days. Early consultation with the teachers of the Division of Geology is recommended as help in the solution of this important problem. In general, however, it may be stated that the professional geologist needs all the knowledge of the principles of physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, which he can secure. Almost as essential is an introduction to astronomy. Quite essential is a reading of scientific German and French.

The concentrator in geology speedily realizes that to become a master in this science, he must later enter a graduate school. Promotion in a geological survey or in collegiate teaching, or in a technical staff or a mining corporation is most likely to be rapid for holders of a doctor's degree in geology. It may be pointed out that men who have concentrated in physics or chemistry are best fitted to become professional geologists. Their real specialization would begin in graduate school, and their mastery of geology would become all the more certain because of the deeper knowledge of the fundamental sciences on which earth science is based.

Teaches Clear Thought

In summary, college concentration in geology gives an admirable training for most men who do not intend to be geologists, but who do wish to learn to think straight and to master their future professions. Concentration in geology is of value to those men who need to make a broad canvas of the field before adopting the important question of adopting geology as a profession. Such men are recommended to seek expert advice in distribution and in the election of "free" courses. With such guidance every man will be assured of a sound, education, a suitable preparation for any professional school. If a man plans to be a leader among professional geologists, he is advised to postpone as far as possible his real specialization in his chosen field until after the bachelor's degree has been obtained