Impressions and recollections of stratigraphy and sedimentology at the University of Cincinnati, as a student in the doctoral program

Wayne D. Martin (PhD '55)


I came to U.C. in the fall of 1949 to major in sedimentology. Gordon Rittenhouse had recently spent part of a summer at West Virginia University to obtain data from W. V. Geological Survey records on the Mississippian System of the Appalachian region. Dana Wells, paleontologist, suggested that I apply to study sedimentology under Dr. Rittenhouse.

Kenneth Caster helped me in the planning of my course program for the first year. When he suggested that I enroll in his year course sequence in paleontology I informed him that I had already taken a course in paleontology. His reply was: "you have not had my course". I have never regretted taking this two-semester course, or his year course sequence in advanced stratigraphy. In stratigraphy, students were assigned topics for class presentation. Although I dreaded the first time I gave a presentation, I found each one, especially the preparation, a rewarding experience.

Gordon Rittenhouse taught two courses, Basic Sedimentation for undergraduates and Advanced Sedimentation for graduate students. The advanced offering was a two-semester sequence and the text was F. J. Pettijohn's Sedimentary Rocks, second edition. The text was the first assignment, all of it. A selected reference list of papers was provided. The class periods were mainly discussion sessions, not lecture sessions. The laboratory work was mainly the study of rock thin sections. A term paper was assigned on sedimentary environments.

Gordon Frey placed emphasis on petroleum geology in his course in Economic Geology. He assigned a pace and compass traverse to be conducted in Mt. Airy Forest as a practical problem in the course. Mineralogy was taught by Professor Von Schlichten, who passed away during my first year at U.C. He was replaced by Gerald Friedman who taught mineralogy and petrology with emphasis on igneous and metamorphic rocks. Although George Barbour, a geomorphologist, was still a faculty member of the Department, I had very little association with him.

I was a laboratory assistant, a small student group instructor in Richard Durrell's excellent course in physical geology. Graduate students were required to make presentations on geologic topics, at faculty-student seminars. The students dreaded the hard questions that were to come from John L. Rich, Chairman, Kenneth Caster and Gordon Rittenhouse following the presentations. During my second year of course work I developed columnar sections from well data for Gordon Rittenhouse. Gordon left U.C. to go full time with the Shell Development Company at the end of that year, and John Rich took over as my dissertation project adviser.

There were morning and afternoon coffee breaks at the nearby student union with Dr. Rittenhouse generally present. Geologic topics more than any other kind were discussed during these gatherings. At the Friday night congregations of students at a bar, the professors were commonly the topics of conversation. Field trips, departmental in scope, were held in the fall and Gordon Frey conducted a field trip for students in his engineering geology course. Microscopes and equipment for splitting, sawing and grinding of rocks and splitting and sieving of sediment samples were the basic tools. I do not recall that more sophisticated instruments than microscopes were utilized for geology students or faculty. Perhaps X-ray investigations were conducted in other departments.

I have been very pleased with my background in soft rock geology at U.C. Although I did not take a course with John L Rich, I learned much from him. He was an especially astute observer and interpreter of physical and biogenic structures in sedimentary rocks and in sediments. His knowledge and interests ranged widely, from the nature of the crust of the Earth to striations preserved in rock by a brachiopod shell settling from suspension to rest on a muddy sea bottom. He was an excellent subsurface geologist capably utilizing subsurface data in the preparation of maps and the removal of regional dip.