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Robert P. Sharp Oral History Interview with Graham Berry

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2016-02-17-000143


  • Other: 2016 February 17


Interview in three sessions in late 1979 and early 1980 with Robert P. Sharp, Sharp Professor of Geology emeritus, who chaired the Division of Geology (later the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences) at Caltech from 1952 to 1968. Begins with his recollections of growing up in Oxnard and of life during his undergraduate years [1930-1934] at Caltech, including his career as quarterback on Caltech's football team, and his one graduate year there. In 1936 he moved to Harvard for further graduate study, doing his thesis work on the Ruby/East Humboldt Range in Nevada. From 1938 to 1943 he taught at the University of Illinois; he discusses expeditions in the Grand Canyon (1937) and the Yukon (1941). After three years with the Army Air Force in Alaska, he joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota, then returned to Caltech as a professor in 1947. He discusses the early history of Caltech's geology division under J. P. Buwalda, the importance of the Seismological Laboratory, and the demise of vertebrate paleontology at Caltech after the death of Chester Stock. Discusses the expansion of the division under his chairmanship into geochemistry and planetary science and other events of his chairmanship; chairing the search committee for a new president upon the retirement of Lee DuBridge; and the advent of Harold Brown. Recalls his participation in the efforts of Eugene Shoemaker and Leon Silver to raise money for a named chair by guiding trips in the Grand Canyon, and his establishment of field trips for the division non-academic staff. The interview concludes with a discussion of his interest in current geological phenomena, such as glaciers and wind effects, and his authorship of guidebooks on Southern California geology for laypeople.

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