Growing up the daughter of a college professor and a suffragette, Florence Bascom was encouraged to follow her passion for learning, earning bachelors of arts and of letters in 1882 and a bachelor’s of science two years later all from the University of Wisconsin where she stayed to earned her masters of science in 1887.
Desiring to continue her education by working with a particular professor at Johns Hopkins University, she applied to the school and was told she could attend but wouldn’t officially be enrolled as a student. She was allowed to take classes but only sitting in a corner behind a screen as to not be a distraction for the male students.
Reapplying to the doctoral program in 1892 she was accepted in secret completing her dissertation on the re-identification of certain rocks using cutting-edge petrographic techniques that is considered highly influential to the field of geology.
During the time Dr. Bascom was obtaining her education she was also educating others-teaching at various schools including Hampton University and Ohio State University. Leaving Ohio she accepted a position at Bryn Mawr College where she could teach higher level geology courses and conduct original research.
Part of this research was as an assistant geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and 1909 she was promoted to geologist and assigned to the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region of the U.S. Most of her work involved the crystalline rocks and geomorphology of this region. She created U.S. Geological Survey folios on Philadelphia, Trenton, Elkton-Wilmington, Quakertown-Doylestown and Honeybrook-Phoenixville.
In the first edition of American Men of Science she was give 4 stars, a very high honor for a scientist of any gender. The second woman elected to the Geological Society of America, she would go on to hold leadership positions in the group.
During her time at Bryn Mawr she founded the school’s department of geology and a graduate program that would train many of the first women geologists of the 20th century. Retiring from teaching in 1928 she continued working at the USGS until 1936.
Written by Angela Goad