JWP and Me - Bill Burton

As a USGS geologic mapper, I owe my career to John Wesley Powell.  His vision of a scientific approach to surveying and developing the arid West, inspired by the 1869 Expedition and subsequent ones, led him to the halls of Congress where, a decade later, he used skillful political maneuvering to create the U.S. Geological Survey.  Powell envisioned the geologic maps that would be produced, with the formations having easily distinguishable colors and labeled with diagrammatic characters, just like today’s maps.  He also understood that geology could not be properly done without a topographic survey, and he fought to have the two activities under one agency.  Today, all U.S. geologic mappers begin their work with a USGS topographic map.

I am also indebted to the Major for his liberal interpretation of the language of the original appropriations bill establishing the U.S. Geological Survey, which was intended for just the public lands of the West but not did not explicitly so state; because of this loophole, Powell extended the reach of the Survey east of the Mississippi and into the Appalachians, where I have spent my career.

Now I come West, to take the same journey that Powell and his men took 150 years ago and that has led to so many other discoveries, to see and examine the same vistas that they saw, through modern eyes that have been trained by the institution he created so long ago