Florence Bascom was the first woman in the United States to receive a PhD from John Hopkins University, and only the second woman to receive a degree in geology. Her work has inspired many other female geologists. In a time when few women pursued higher education, Bascom’s family actively supported her decisions and encouraged her to follow her hopes to have a career in science.
Bascom’s work focused on the identification of acidic volcanoes and the cycles of erosion as a geological surveyor. She argued that the acidity of volcanoes can change over time, and created prefixes to help identify the acidic changes of the rocks. Bascom also worked as a geological surveyor and authored many reports of geologic folios. One of her findings led to a new definition of how to define a cycle of erosion, as she found evidence that there had been nine previous cycles in Pennsylvania. Before this, scientists believed only three cycles had occurred. During Bascom’s time as a professor, she founded the Department of Geology at Bryn Mawr, and many of her students went on to become Fellows of the Geological Society of America.
Throughout her education, Bascom faced many challenges like not being allowed to enroll in the same classrooms as men. During her schooling at John Hopkins University, she even had to sit behind a screen so she wouldn’t disrupt the men in the class. Bascam was able to overcome these challenges and would go on to have many remarkable achievements in geology. In 1901, she was the first female geologist to present a paper to the Geological Survey of Washington. She was the first woman elected to the Council of the Geological Society of America, as well as the first female officer and vice-president of the Geological Society of America. To this day, she serves as an inspiration for women to persist in STEM.
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