American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rollin Thomas Chamberlin, 1881-1948

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1949


When Professor Chamberlin was a student in Switzerland in 1900 he made his first ascent, the Titlis, alone. In 1939 he climbed Hungabee, a difficult peak of the Canadian Rockies. These are the boundaries of the mountaineering career of one of America’s most distinguished geologists. One would like to present the climbing record in more detail, but several highlights must suffice: Orizaba in 1906, when A. P. Coleman and H. F. Reid accompanied him after the sessions of the International Geological Congress; the summer of 1921 when he ascended major peaks of the Pennine Alps; the seasons of 1924 and 1927 when he and Allen Carpé gained the highest summits of the Cariboos.

Rollin Thomas Chamberlin was born in Beloit, Wis., on 20 October 1881, and died in Chicago on 6 March 1948. He was the son of Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, and took his name from him as well as from Rollin Salisbury, both of whom held the chair of geology at the University of Chicago. Thus his future career was well augured. He studied at the Universities of Geneva and Zürich in 1899-1900. He received the degree of B.S. at the University of Chicago in 1903, of Ph.D. in 1907, and of Sc.D. from Beloit College in 1929. In 1922 he married Dorothy Ingalls Smith.

Chamberlin served in the U. S. Geological Survey, 1907-08, and was a member of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Educational Investigation Commission to China in 1909. He became research associate at the University of Chicago, 1909-11, and investigated the iron resources of Brazil, 1911-12. From an instructorship in geology, 1912, he rose to the professorship at the university in 1923. In 1920 he took part in the Carnegie Institute expedition to Samoa, and for 20 years he edited the Journal of Geology. His research in the prevention of coal dust explosions in mines led to his devising of the now widely accepted stone dust method. He was a member of the National Academy of Science, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and the Seismological Society of America; and he was vice-chairman of the division of geology and geography, National Research Council, 1922-23.

Chamberlin joined the American Alpine Club in 1921 and recently presented to it the gigantic ice-axe used by Professor Salisbury during the Peary Relief Expedition of 1895. The structure and motion of glaciers was naturally of absorbing interest, as is shown by his frequent contributions on this subject to our Journal and other publications.1

J. M. T.

1 See, for example, “The Ascent of Orizaba,” A.A.J., I (1930), 160 ff., and “Glacier Mechanics,” A.A.J., IV (1940), 41 ff.

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