History of the Geosciences Department


UWM has a complex history, and Geosciences parallels it. At one point three schools occupied what is now the campus: Downer College in the red brick buildings north of Hartford, Milwaukee Normal School mostly in Mitchell, Mellencamp and Chapman Halls, and the University School of Milwaukee in Englemann Hall. Only Downer offered geology and , as a consequence, was bequeathed the Greene geological collection in 1912 by the heirs of Thomas A. Greene. By the 1950's Katherine Greacen was teaching geology at Downer and was the curator of the Greene Collection. When Downer College merged with Lawrence University, in 1964, the Geology program remained behind. UWM bought the Downer buildings and the Greene Collection and formed a Department of Geology and Geography with Katherine Greacen Nelson as the sole geologist. Dr. Nelson continued to teach historical geology and paleontology in the department until her death. Through its history, the department has been housed first in Mitchell, then the E Building (a former temporary building located in the present parking lot southwest of Lapham Hall fronting on Kenwood Blvd.), then Sabin (where it greatly outgrew its quarters) and finally in Lapham. Today the program contains disciplines such as geophysics and meteorology and hydrogeology which hadn't even been imagined when Dr. Nelson started at Downer.

Geology Department History Timeline

  1. Department of Geology was formed in Spring 1963 and housed in Mitchell Hall (formerly Old Main, of the Milwaukee State Teachers College).
  2. Department of Geology located in Mitchell Hall and above Green's Bookstore across Downer from Mitchell , (later Folletts Bookstore, Downer Art and Hobby, currently UWM Bookstore) 1964.
  3. Department moves to the lower two floors of Sabin Hall and acquires Greene Museum when the Downer College Buildings are sold to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1965-66.
  4. Department moves to Mitchell and E-Building (now the Physics parking lot) for remodeling of Sabin Hall and Greene Museum.
  5. In 1968-69, Department moves back to Sabin Hall and Greene Museum.
  6. Department name is changed to Department of Geological Sciences in 1971.
  7. In 1972, the Department gains space in Kenilworth Building 4th floor to house a wave tank and flume.
  8. In 1975, meteorologists are transferred from the Department of Geography (L&S) and Energetics (CEAS) to the Department of Geological Sciences.
  9. To accommodate the meteorologists, the Department gains space in the Physics Building; also a high Trailer for high-temperature geochemistry is provided for our geochemist. Both spaces are in addition to the space the Department occupies in Sabin and Kenilworth.
  10. In 1978, the meteorology group joins the geology-geophysics group in Sabin. The Department gains space (a) in Johnson Hall for grad students; (b) in the Great Lakes Research Facility (GLRF; now the WATER Institute) for x-ray mineralogy, sedimentology and snow, ice and permafrost studies; (c) and in Engineering for rock mechanics.
  11. In 1986, Department graduate students and some laboratories are housed in the Temporary Building (later called the North Building, tore down in 2003 for Klotsche Center expansion)..
  12. In 1991, the Department name changes to Department of Geosciences.
  13. In 1992, the Department moves into the Lapham Hall west expansion with some of the Department's operations at GRLF and in the Greene Museum.
  14. In 1993, the Greene collections move to Lapham Hall's Greene Gallery located on the first floor.