George Perkins Merrill

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George P. Merrill
George P. Merrill, head curator of the National Museum, with the largest perfect crystal globe in the world, Washington, D.C. (cropped).jpg
Born(1854-05-31)May 31, 1854
DiedAugust 15, 1929(1929-08-15) (aged 75)
Auburn, Maine
Alma materUniversity of Maine
Sarah Farrington
(m. 1883; died 1894)
Katherine Lulalia Yancey
(m. 1900)
Scientific career
InstitutionsColumbian University, National Museum of Natural History
Signature of George Perkins Merrill.png

George Perkins Merrill (May 31, 1854 – August 15, 1929) was an American geologist, notable as the head curator from 1917 to 1929 of the Department of Geology, United States National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution).[1]


George Perkins Merrill was born in Auburn, Maine on May 31, 1854.[2] He was educated at the University of Maine (B.S., 1879; Ph.D., 1889), took a post-graduate courses of study and was assistant in chemistry at Wesleyan University, Connecticut (1879–1880), and subsequently studied at Johns Hopkins (1886–1887).

In 1881 he became assistant curator at the National Museum, Washington, D.C.[3] He also served as professor of geology and mineralogy at the Corcoran Scientific School of Columbian University (now George Washington University) from 1893 to 1916, and was appointed head curator of the department of geology at the National Museum in 1897.[2] In 1922 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He wrote many periodical contributions, especially on meteorites. His assistants included Edgar T. Wherry and Margaret W. Moodey.[4]

In 1897 Merrill proposed the term regolith for the loose outer layer of Earth, the Moon, Mars, etc. covering solid rock.

Personal life[edit]

Merrill married Sarah Farrington on November 19, 1883, and they had four children. She died in 1894, and he remarried to Katherine Lulalia Yancey on February 13, 1900. They had one child.[2]

He died from a heart attack in Auburn, Maine on August 15, 1929, and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery there.[5] The grave marker is engraved:

Search for truth is the
noblest occupation of man
Its publication a duty


His chief publications are:

  • Stones for Building and Decoration (1891; third edition, 1903[6])
  • A Treatise on Rocks, Rock-Weathering, and Soils (1897; second edition, 1906)[7]
  • The Non-Metallic Minerals (1904; second edition, 1910)[8]
  • The Fossil Forests of Arizona (1911); 23 pages including illustrations[9]
  • The First Hundred Years of American Geology (1924)[10]


  1. ^ "George P. Merrill". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. VIII. James T. White & Company. 1924. p. 35. Retrieved January 15, 2021 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Merrill Gates (1906). "Men of mark in America; ideals of American life told in biographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 2)". p. 16.
  4. ^ United States National Museum.; Wherry, Edgar Theodore; Moodey, Margaret W.; Merrill, George P. (1922). Handbook and descriptive catalogue of the collections of gems and precious stones in the United States National museum. Smithsonian institution. United States National museum. Bulletin 118. Washington: Govt. Print. Off.
  5. ^ "Dr G. P. Merrill Succumbs Suddenly". The Boston Globe. Auburn, Maine. August 16, 1929. p. 3. Retrieved January 15, 2021 – via
  6. ^ Stones for building and decoration. J. Wiley & sons; Chapman & Hall, limited. 1903.
  7. ^ A treatise on rocks, rock-weathering and soils. The Macmillan company; Macmillan & co. 1897.
  8. ^ The non-metallic minerals: Their occurrence and uses. Wiley ; Chapman & Hall. 1904.
  9. ^ "The American Museum Journal". 1913.
  10. ^ James F. Kemp (April 1925). "Review: The First Hundred Years of American Geology by George P. Merrill". The American Historical Review. 30 (3): 616–619. doi:10.2307/1835613. hdl:2027/mdp.39015069825936. JSTOR 1835613.

Further reading[edit]

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