US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 35 (2010) 868–880


The link between soil science and geology is personified in the American father and daughter: soil surveyor William Edgar Tharp (1870–1959) and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp (1920–2006). From 1904 to 1935, W.E. Tharp mapped soils in 14 states for the US Department of Agriculture, and campaigned during the late 1920s–early 1930s to raise awareness of the high rates of soil erosion from croplands. The lifestyle of the federal soil surveyor in the United States during the early 20th century involved frequent household moves, and it played a formative role in Marie Tharp’s childhood. Her path to a career in geology was molded by this family experience, by mentors encountered in the classroom, and by social barriers that faced women scientists of that era.