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Rollin T. and Thomas C. Chamberlin papers

Identifier: MC 31

Scope and Contents

This collection is divided into four series: 1. Rollin T. Chamberlin, 2. Thomas C. Chamberlin, 3. Oriental Educational Investigation Commission Trip to China, 1909, 4. Photographs.

Series 1. Rollin T. Chamberlin
This series contains a number of published books from Rollin T. Chamberlin's personal collection, as evidenced by his name written in the front endpaper.

Series 2. Thomas C. Chamberlin
This series primarily gathers many biographical writings about and journal articles by T.C. Chamberlin. There are also some news clippings, a small amount of correspondence from the 1910s-1920s, notes, notebooks from his travels in Greenland and Europe from the late 1800s, photos, manuscripts, and honors awarded to him.

Series 3. Oriental Educational Investigation Commission Trip to China, 1909
The photographs in this series were taken by Rollin Chamberlin during an exploratory trip through China in 1909-1910 as part of the Oriental Educational Investigation Commission. T.C. Chamberlin took the trip with his son, Rollin T. Chamberlin, who was a University of Chicago professor and prominent geologist. There are many fascinating and striking photos in this collection. The series also contains six diaries written by Rollin T. Chamberlin that provide details and insights into the trip and the Chamberlins' responses to the sights and people they encountered.

Series 4. Photographs
This series contains some photo prints and albums of the Chamberlin family, as well as many prints, negatives, and slides (including glass lantern slides) of photos taken by Rollin Chamberlin on his various geological surveys. They date from the 1890s-1930s.


  • 1873-1997; bulk 1909-1948

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research; however, certain materials are very fragile and require Archives staff for handling, or use may be restricted altogether.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, 1843-1928

Geologist and Educator, was born near Mattoon, Illinois, September 25, 1843, son of Rev. John and Cecelia Chamberlin. He was graduated at Beloit College in 1866. He then passed two years as principal of the Delevan High School (Wisconsin), and while there developed an interest in physical science, which determined his future profession. In 1868-69 he took a post-graduate course in science at the University of Michigan and at its close accepted the chair of natural sciences in the state normal school at Whitewater, Wisconsin, where his ability as an instructor soon brought him into notice.

In 1873 he was called to the chair of geology, zoology, and botany in Beloit College, and was at the same time made assistant geologist of the Wisconsin geological survey. In 1876 he became chief geologist of Wisconsin. After this appointment he suspended his active work at Beloit for three years and devoted his whole time to work upon the geological survey.

In 1878 he visited Switzerland and made a special study of glaciers in the Alps. In 1881 he was made chief of the glacial division of the U.S. geological survey and with this appointment his connection with Beloit College closed.

In 1887 he became president of the University of Wisconsin, retaining his position on the survey. During the five years of his administration the prosperity of the university was unexampled. It was reorganized on the modern university basis and doubled in numbers and in its facilities and efficiency. He resigned the presidency in 1892 to accept the head professorship of geology in the University of Chicago.

He work as a U.S. geologist has taken him over a large part of the country and has made him of the recognized authorities on the geology of our country and especially upon the glacial period.

He is the author of "Geology of Wisconsin," and has written many papers on geology, come of which were read before the international congress of geologists; others before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he has been vice president; the Wisconsin Academy of Science and Arts, of which he was a charter member, and the Geological Society of America, of which he has been president.

In 1887 Beloit College gave him the degree of LL.D. He was director of the Walker Museum, president of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and editor of the "Journal of Geology." In 1867 he was married to Alma Isabel. He is the father of Rollin Thomas Chamberlin.

(From The National Cyclopaedia, with edits.)


26 Linear Feet (29 boxes, published volumes, and oversize items)

Language of Materials



Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin (1843-1928), class of 1866, was a professor of science at Beloit College from 1873-1886. Though his academic interests were wide-ranging, he is best known for the Chamberlin-Moulton Planetesimal Hypothesis, a theory of solar system formation. His son, Rollin Thomas Chamberlin also was an accomplished geologist, and together they embarked on a survey trip to China in 1909 for the Oriental Educational Investigation Commission. The Chamberlins' papers include biographies, correspondence, publications (published and drafts), photographs, travel diaries, notebooks, maps, research materials, and other personal documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 1997, Hank Woodard, former professor of Geology at Beloit College, donated these materials to the Beloit College Archives over a few different accessions.

The oversized, foam core mounted photographs were printed for an exhibit at the Wright Museum of Art.

Existence and Location of Copies

T.C. Chamberlin Collection in the Beloit College Digital Collections

Related Materials

Beloit College Department of Geology records (AC 55)
Melvin A. Brannon papers (MC 3)
George L. Collie papers (MC 37)
Rollin D. Salisbury papers (MC 94)
More Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin papers are available at the University of Chicago Library.

Rollin T. and Thomas C. Chamberlin papers
Michelle Tom
May, 2013
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Repository Details

Part of the Beloit College Archives and Special Collections Repository

700 College St.
Beloit WI 53511 USA