|John Rice Bal (iPad photo from Memorial to John Rice Ball by E. C. Dapples & A. L. Howland, Proceedings Volume of the Geological Society of America Annual Report for 1953)|
It is both frustrating and satisfying when you pick up someone’s obituary, and while reading begin thinking about what a fantastic life this person must have lived. But why don’t you know more about him or her?
So you start digging around trying to discover a little more about the background of the particular individual to share so other people can be as enthused as you are.
But readers, remember this is just a blog, it is not a scholarly writing. It is based upon information contained in the Harbor History Museum files, and perhaps on occasion, complemented by bits and pieces discovered elsewhere.
The person that has so intrigued me this time is none other than Professor John Rice Ball. John was born to Oscar Ball and Ellen Mariah Amsden in Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio on June 26, 1881.
His Memorial on the AAPG Datapages/Archives gives a short biography of his earlylife growing up in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Here he spent his boyhood years walking long distances to school, and helping with the daily tasks of prairie living. Some of these experiences must have left a deep impression on him, for, during the rare occasions when he mentioned his early life, he described the bleakness and loneliness of the prairies, and the hardships of the winter months. Later his family moved to Washington. … It was the Pacific Northwest which he most loved and considered his true home, and to this country he returned in the late years of his life.” By the time John turned 19, he was living in Seattle with his family. He started his higher education at the College of Puget Sound now known as the University of Puget Sound. It is quite possible that while attending school in Tacoma, he met Cora Lena Goodman there as well. We are aware from past readings that Joseph Goodman’s daughters were well education since Anna was the first white teacher in Gig Harbor, and shortly after the school open, her sister Lucy took over the teaching position.
“ Sometime during his last years of high school, or shortly thereafter, he became increasely interested in religious matters and beginning in 1900 he entered the ministry of the Methodist-Episcopal Church. For fourteen years he held a number of pastorates, taking him to various communities in Washington, Montana, and Illinois.”
John and Cora Lena were married on December 21, 1905; their first child Clayton G. Ball was born the following December 16, 1906 and two years later, their second child, Dorothy Margaret Ball (Mrs. Nathan Wilkinson) was born December 22, 1908.
|Joseph & Rose Goodman's Family 1895 (iPad photo of Harbor History Museum Photograph used with permission)|
In 1910 John transferred to Northwestern University where he received his B.A in 1913 and in 1917 his M.A. and finally at the University of Chicago where he received his PhD in 1927. During his studies to earn his PhD he was also acting as an instructor in the Department of Geology at the University of Chicago. But, let’s not forget that John also received his bachelor of divinity degree at Garrett Bible Institute in 1913. He was a very busy young man. “Geology was one of his science courses,and like so many others he found himself stimulated by Professor U. S. Grant who was then head of the Geology Department. From then on his interest in science increased until he decided to leave the ministry and enter a career in geology.”
As well as working on his Masters degree, he also acted as an associate professor of geology and paleontology in 1916 at Northwestern University. But with the approaching war in Europe was also requested to assist in the program for Student Officer Training Corps as well. The Niagara strata in southeastern Missouri, and similar studies, held his interest throughout his entire career. His interest and dedication was fed by the opportunity to spent the academic year 1931-1932 traveling around the world visiting the majority of Silurian exposure areas. He gathered tremendous amounts of paleontology material from this trip which fueled his studies until his death. By 1945 he became a visiting professor of geology and geography at the University of Kansas City, and in 1951 he taught at the University of North Carolina. It appears that “He was never satisfied with what he had accomplished because he felt the need of constantly seeking new data. Except for his immediate colleagues and students, few were able to profit by his broad knowledge of Silurian invertebrate faunas, and the profession is a loser for not having gained this information through more published works.”
He named several new fossils in the Silurian formations in southeastern Missouri. He wrote several papers on his research and was a co-author on numerous other articles and papers. “Teaching, however, held his primary interest, and from it he drew his greatest satisfaction and rewards.”And as I’m attempting to discover more about Dr. Rice’s field activities I become very excited to see a reference to John Ball in Ernst Stromer’s Egypt Expedition on Wikipedia. But alas, it is not our Dr. John Rice Ball, but instead an English Dr. Ball who first went to Egypt in 1897. Ah, well, maybe our Dr. John Rice Ball didn’t participate in Stromer’s expedition, he still made vast contributions to the field of geology, geography and paleontology. He is recognized as one of the leading geologists of the United States in the US Department of Interior Bibliography of North American Geology 1931 and 1932 issued by Harold L. Ickes, Secretary, Geological Survey, W. C. Mendenhall, Director, Bulletin 858 for his contributions to this field.
An excellent “Memorial to John Rice Bell (1881-1953) by E. C. Dapples and A. L. Holland was published by The Geological Society of America - 1888- in the Proceedings Volume Annual Report for 1953, PP. 87-90, PL. 4, May 1964.”
US Dept. of Interior, Biography of North American Geology 1931-1932 by John M. Nickles
Various Miscellaneous News Articles - Not Identified