Thomas Condon and Oregon Geology


WC’s fascination with geology began with classes at the University of Oregon. Most of those classes – all of them, except for Introduction to Geology (“Rocks for Jocks”) – were held in Condon Hall.

A flattering view of Condon Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

A flattering view of Condon Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

WC honestly never gave a moment’s thought to the building’s name. There were sophomoric jokes about it, but there were jokes about a lot of the building names.[^1}

It wasn’t until WC visited John Day Fossil Beds National Monument just last month that WC had any real idea of who Condon was and why the (then) geology building on campus might be named after him.

The headquarters and research center at John Day Fossil Beds

The interpretive and research center at John Day Fossil Beds

A sad oversight by the younger WC. The Reverend Thomas Condon was a pivotal figure in geology and paleontology, the first Oregon State Geologist, the first science professor at the University of Oregon, and a highly regarded scientist and science populist. Huh.

It was his field work, in the John Day Fossil Beds, and fossils he sent back East, that led of O. C. Marsh establish the evolutionary history of the horse, corroborating Charles Darwin’s new theory of evolution. Condon has at least a dozen fossil species named after him, amassed one of the greatest fossil collections in the United States, and was a highly regarded teacher as well, who pioneered new teaching methods.

Thomas Condon, undated photo believed to be from the 1870s

Thomas Condon, undated photo believed to be from the 1870s

WC walked into the Condon Hall hundreds of times and never knew.

Condon was by training a Congregationalist minister. He was a self-taught geologist and paleontologist. He believed that religion and modern science went hand in hand. After investigating fossils in the John Day area, he developed a scientific passion for paleontology. Condon believed science was a means to understand the spectacular nature of God’s creation. “The Hills from which these evidences were taken, he wrote in reference to the evolutionary nature of the fossil beds, “Were made by the same God who made the hills of Judea, and the evidences are as authoritative. The Church has nothing to fear from the uncovering of truth.

The Thomas Condon exhibit at the Thomas Condon Center

The Thomas Condon exhibit at the Thomas Condon Center

WC apologizes to the shade of Thomas Condon for WC’s ignorance of what an amazing man Condon was. And suggests that there are any number of other ministers who could benefit from Condon’s message.

 

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2 thoughts on “Thomas Condon and Oregon Geology

  1. Thanks for the memories. The Condon Paleontology Center was a pleasant surprise when I visited John Day Fossil Beds. Small, but first class. And there are great pies in Dayville, just down the road. Another nice surprise.

  2. One Cool Dude … my geology and paleontology adventures were courtesy of many professors at Idaho State University and the amazing geology of God’s creation in southern Idaho. From the Craters of the Moon, to the amazing mountain ranges, faults and more around Mackay to the Hagerman Fossil Beds (speaking of the evolution of horses) to the great opportunity to see Bison Antiquus and so much more. And of course there was the little place called Yellowstone National Park 🙂

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