Berkeley's first paleontologist,
Joseph Le Conte, 1869-1901 (cont.)

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Joseph Le Conte 
teaching in South Hall
Le Conte lecturing in South Hall with demonstration materials on the board and table top. (photo courtesy of the Bancroft Library)


students. Le Conte's textbooks on physical and historical geology (Le Conte 1878, 1888) were well illustrated with fossils, many of which were reproduced from the Geological Survey of California’s Palaeontology volumes. He even had a chapter about the antiquity of humans. He lectured on paleontology extensively, and as he said, "My textbook, Elements of Geology, was simply the embodiment of my daily class lectures, but far less discursive and illustrative and therefore far less interesting than the viva voce lectures" (Armes 1903).
Le Conte was also very interested in evolution. Writing extensively on it, he soon became the foremost evolutionist in America ("The Prince of Evolution," as

 

the Oakland Tribune called him). Reconciling evolution and religion, he wrote "...I was an evolutionist, thorough and enthusiastic. Enthusiastic, not only because it is true, and all truth is the image of God in the human reason, but also because of all the laws of nature it is by far the most religious, that is, the most in accord with religious philosophic thought. It is, indeed, glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all peoples" (Armes 1903). By "enthusiastic," he likely meant its older definition of "inspired by God." For him, religion was important for ordinary people, and evolution demonstrated its truth.
Le Conte recognized the need for outstanding fossils for instruction. He thus became instrumental in purchasing and obtaining many important collections for Berkeley, many of which he displayed in the Museum of Natural History (see photo next page) in South Hall and in his courses. These included a Paleozoic invertebrate collection from Robert P. Whitfield; a Crawfordsville, Indiana, crinoid collection; and San Francisco financier F.L.A. Pioche's natural history collection of minerals, fossils and mollusks. The C.D. Voy collection, purchased by D.O. Mills of San Francisco and given to the University along with his own mollusk collection, was particularly important.
Many students were entranced by Le Conte, and among his best known was John C. Merriam. Inspired by Le Conte's textbook on geology, Merriam came to

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