The Ceiling of the Recitation Room of Dr. William Louis Jones
in the Academic Building of the University of Georgia

        Thomas Walter Reed was a student of the University of Georgia in the 1880s, the University's Registrar from 1909 to 1948, and the author of a History of the University of Georgia.  The following is his description of the ceiling of the room in which Dr. William Louis Jones taught early Geology classes. The most salient paragraph is in bold print.

         I cannot get my consent to close this brief sketch of Dr. Jones without describing the ceiling of the large recitation room in which he taught us boys.  There was never another such ceiling in the world and there never will be another.  The carpenter's tools and the painter's brush, without due regard to that which should have been preserved for all time, have erased every vestige of that ceiling, but it remains fixed in my memory.  Just who the artist was and just when he painted it, I do not know, but his name ought to be inscribed among the immortals.

        The Academic Building was erected in 1859.  When I came to the University in 1885 the first floor was for the administration offices and mathematics department, the second floor was for the libraries and trustees room and on the east end of the third floor was the recitation room of Dr. Jones.   It was a room about sixty feet by sixty feet with four windows on each of two sides.

        The ceiling presented a sight such as no mortal man had ever looked upon elsewhere.   The entire space was covered with a beautifully painted design, representing the evolution of life through all the geologic or zoologic ages.  A small circle in the center depicted what appeared to be forms of spermatozoa, while in concentric circles about four feet wide, separated into segments, were portrayed primitive types of life - arthropods, crustaceans, arachnids, the fishes, etc.  I particularly recall several beautifully painted fishes, swimming with __?__ tail and every scale and fin vividly portrayed.  Each segment of each circle was made typical of a particular stage of evolution.  The painting of the higher vertebrates was surprisingly well executed.  Just beyond the periphery of the largest circle, a golden crown, with rays of light streaming upward from it, stood as the representation of Man.  No human figure was drawn.

        That ceiling was drawn for a definite purpose, but just what that purpose was is not of record.  If students were intended to study it or follow through a lecture delivered by a professor, they would have had to practically dislocate their necks to get a view of it or in an easier way they might have stretched themselves, face up, on the floor.

        This description is utterly inadequate, but it is the best the writer can do, even with the assistance of Dr. J.H.T. McPherson, professor of political science, who has used that room as a recitation room for the past fifty years.  To tell the truth that painting was a perfect curiosity and was beyond description.

        Year by year signs of age became evident.  Here and there bits of plaster fell and white patches filled the spaces.  Occasionally a leak from the roof would disfigure small areas.  But these effects of time and age, in a sense, added to, rather than detracted from the general impression.  Then came the day of remodeling and making things over in that part of the building.  The writer has too much sentiment in him to have ever approved the wiping out of that picture.   But the march of progress could not be stayed, and the paint brush wiped it out.




Thomas Walter Reed 's History of the University of Georgia, (~1949).


Back to A History of the University of Georgia Department of Geology
e-mail to Bruce Railsback (
Railsback's main web page
UGA Geology Department web page




The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.