Geology has been taught at Williams since 1817, when it was introduced to the curriculm by Amos Eaton, the pioneering geologist, botanist and educator. Eaton, who was also an alumnus of Williams (class of 1799), is famous for developing teaching methods that focused on “the application of science to the common purposes of life.” Whereas most teachers of the time lectured and demonstrated to students, in Eaton’s classes students learned by doing. His students went on field trips, ran experiments, and gave lectures. Although Eaton taught only briefly at Williams, his legacy has infused and enriched the college ever since.
In the 1800s geology was taught together with the other sciences as part of Natural History, but it became a separate entity in the early 1900s. The major in Geology and Mineralogy was created in 1920. In 1996, the name of the department and the major was changed to Geosciences, to reflect our expanding interest in oceans and climate change as well as in the solid Earth. Our long tradition, together with the college’s location and commitment to active research, makes Williams an ideal place to study geological processes and earth history.