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Minerals, lands, and geology for the common defence and general welfare, Volume 4, 1939-1961: A history of geology in relation to the development of public-land, federal science, and mapping policies and the development of mineral resources in the United

April 17, 2015

The fourth volume of the comprehensive history of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is titled “Minerals, Lands, and Geology for the Common Defence and General Welfare—Volume 4, 1939‒1961.” The title is based on a passage in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.

The late Mary C. Rabbitt (1915‒2002), a geophysicist who served with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (1948‒1949) and the USGS (1949‒1978), wrote the first three volumes in this series of USGS Special Books. “Volume 1, Before 1879” (1979), “Volume 2, 1879‒1904” (1980), and “Volume 3, 1904‒1939” (1986), although long out of print and out of stock, are now available online; see links at right.

The 704-page Volume 4, supplemented by more than 200 illustrations, was begun by Rabbitt and completed by coauthor Clifford M. Nelson, a geologist with the USGS since 1976. The book is described as “A History of Geology in Relation to the Development of Public-Land, Federal Science, and Mapping Policies and the Development of Mineral Resources in the United States From the 60th to the 82d Year of the U.S. Geological Survey.” Volume 4 focuses on the United States and the USGS in war and peace from the beginning of World War II in Europe to the end of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Like the earlier books in the series, Volume 4 places the nature and significance of USGS operations in mapping and the earth sciences in the wider contexts of national and international history. The new volume, like its three predecessors, is intended for general readers and historians alike, so it follows a chronological rather than a thematic pattern, although themes are traced throughout the book.

After preparing Volumes 1–3, Rabbitt wrote a brief report summarizing the agency's history in its first century, “The United States Geological Survey: 1879‒1989,” which was originally issued as USGS Circular 1050 in 1989. It was reissued in 2000 as part of USGS Circular 1179, which also contains Renée M. Jaussaud’s inventory of documents accessioned through 1997 into Record Group 57 (USGS) at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Archives II facility (NARA II) in College Park, Maryland.