George Little,
Professor of Geology at the University of Georgia from 1876 to 1878

       George Little was a Professor of Geology at the University of Georgia from 1876 to 1878, in one of the periods when William Louis Jones was away from the University.   He was seemingly the first professor of geology at UGA to hold a Ph.D. degree, even though it was in chemistry.

       George Little was born in 1838 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and was the son of Scottish ancestors.   Both of his mother's parents were teachers, and his father was at least once a teacher.

       George Little attended the University of Alabama from 1851 to 1855 and earned an A.B. degree.   In 1857 and 1858 he attended the University of Berlin, where he took several courses in the natural sciences, including a geology course from Gustav Rose, a mineralogist who was for ten years the president of the German Geological Society.  In 1858 and 1859 he studied in the laboratories of Dr. Friedrich Wöhler at the University of Göttingen and earned his Ph.D. degree there in chemistry with a dissertation on selenium.   During the Civil War, he rose from private to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate Army.

       After teaching at Oakland College in Mississippi and serving as the State Geologist of Mississippi, George Little became State Geologist of Georgia in 1874.  Among his assistants was David C. Barrow, who would go on to be Chancellor (i.e., president) of the University of Georgia from 1906 to 1925 and after whom Barrow Hall, one partial home of the UGA Geology Department, was named.

       While State Geologist of Georgia, George Little was soon pressured to teach at the University of Georgia too. From 1876 to 1878 he was a professor of mineralogy and geology and agriculture at the University, traveling to Athens two days each week to teach (a comment on what was possible in the age of trains).  He was considered as President of the University, but he declined because he could not hope to hold that office and carry on his work as State Geologist.   When he was pressured to take on even more teaching responsibilities, he objected that he could not do so and maintain his work as State Geologist, and so his position at the University was given to someone else.

        The irony was not lost on him when the State of Georgia quit funding the position of State Geologist a year or two later, so that he had given up one job to do better one that he then lost.   He went on to support himself in private practice as a geologist in Chattanooga and Tuscaloosa, and he died in 1924.

 

 

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Sources:

A biography of George Little accompanying the Little Family Papers in the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library of The University of Alabama.

George Little, 1924, Memoirs of George Little: Tuscaloosa, Weatherford Printing Company.

Wikipedia's entries on Gustav Rose and Friedrich Wöhler.


 

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