Happy 155th, Daniel Barringer

The Barringer crater in Arizona

I naturally was very incredulous of the theory … that this great hole in the earth’s surface had been produced by the impact of an iron body falling out of space …”

This week marks the 155th birthday of Daniel Moreau Barringer, the American geologist who explored the Barringer crater (then called Coon Mountain) in Arizona, and formulated the hypothesis that it was formed by a meteorite impact. His conclusions, published in 1905 in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, were controversial, and it was not until the 1950s that the impact hypothesis was fully accepted by geologists. (The prevailing theory, held by members of the United States Geological Survey, was that the crater had been produced by a steam explosion.)  The subsequent calculations of astronomer Forest Ray Moulton, presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 1930, indicated that the force of the impact would have been sufficient to vaporize the meteorite.  Moulton’s conclusions explained the scarcity of physical evidence at the site, and greatly strengthened the acceptance of Barringer’s hypothesis.

Read more:

  • Scientist of the Day: Daniel Moreau Barringer (Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City.)
  • Barringer, D.M., 1905. Coon Mountain and Its Crater. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 57, 861–886. (pdf)
  • Barringer, D.M., 1914. Further Notes on Meteor Crater, Arizona. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 66, 556–565. (pdf)
  • Barringer, D.M., 1924. Further Notes on Meteor Crater in Northern Central Arizona (No. 2). Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 76, 275–278. (pdf)
  • “Meteor Crater.” Science News, 1930. Science, New Series 72, x–xiv. (pdf)

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