Is Geomorphology
within Geography or Geology?



Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 11:05:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Paul R. Larson
Subject: geomorphology as a field of study

I have a question for everyone. What do you say to the geologists who claim that there is no longer a need for the study of geomorphology, that it is nothing more than physical geology? Our school is in the process of a semester conversion, and the geomorphology course was a casulty of the process. Geology dropped it, but I was successful in adding it to the geography curriculum. There seems to be no small degree of antipathy toward the subject among the geologists here on campus. So, I wondered how others have handled the question.


Paul R. Larson

Paul R. Larson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Geography
Mail: Department of Physical Sciences
Southern Utah University
351 West Center Street
Cedar City, Utah 84720
Voice: (435) 865-8244
Fax: (435) 865-8051
latitude: North 37 degrees 40' 29.6404"
longitude: West 113 degrees 04' 05.5157"
elevation above ellipsoid: 1778.715 meters
UTM-12S E317608.88m N4171757.94m

from USGS dictionary

  1. The science that treats the general configuration of the Earth's surface; specif., the study of the classification, description, nature, origin, and development of present landforms and their relationships to underlying structures, and of the history of geologic changes as recorded by these surface features. In the United States, it has come to replace the term "physiography" and is usually considered a branch of geology; in Great Britain, it is usually regarded as a branch of geography. AGI
  2. Strictly, any study that deals with the form of the Earth (including geodesy, and structural and dynamic geology). This usage is more common in Europe, where the term has even been applied broadly to the science of the Earth. AGI
  3. The features dealt with in, or a treatise on, geomorphology; e.g., the geomorphology of Texas. AGI

from Water Words Dictionary

That branch of both physiography and geology that deals with the form of the earth, the general configuration of its surface, and the changes that take place in the evolution of land forms. The term usually applies to the origins and dynamic morphology (changing structure and form) of the earth's land surfaces, but it can also include the morphology of the sea floor and the analysis of extraterrestrial terrains. Sometimes included in the field of physical geography, geomorphology is really the geological aspect of the visible landscape.

from Hypertext Webster Gateway

geomorphology n : the branch of geology that studies the characteristics and configuration and evolution of rocks and land forms [syn: {morphology}]

WWW Editor of The Association of Polish Geomorphologists


from Mike Blum

I would say you have some un-enlightened geological colleagues, as this kind of thing was common 5-15 years ago, but geomorphology has made a true comeback in many departments due to (a) global change issues, and (b) environmental geology.

Prior to that, it may be fair to say that the very small-scale process-only problems many geomorphologists favored during the 80's had little significance to many traditional geologists, and much of it was done without any consideration of the role of tectonics and time in preservation of things in the stratigraphic record. This is, after all, a fundamental concern of most sedimentary geologists. It may be unreasonable to expect interest to be generated among others, i.e. many of the hard rock / structure / geophysics and geochemistry types, as they will always see geomorph and other soft-rock stuff as a lesser side of the discipline.

In short, it has been, in my view, a matter of geomorphologists not demonstrating relevancy of their studies to some their geological colleagues, with consequences being loss of faculty positions in many geology depts during the late 70's and 80's. But I really believed the situation has turned itself around. I can only say that for my department the "Geomorphology" course has always been in the "Geology" curriculum, very popular among geology undergrads, and strongly recommended by my colleagues on the geology faculty. The same can be said for many other schools.

Regards, Mike Blum

Dr. Mike Blum
Associate Professor
Department of Geosciences
214 Bessey Hall
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0340
402-472-7872 (office phone)
402-472-4917 (office FAX)

from Peter Ashmore

I guess the response to your geology 'friends' depends on their image of what geomorphologists do. If we are describers and categorisers of landforms, or recognisers of erosional discontinuities and surfaces they may have a point. But I would say at least the following:

  1. Contemprary earth surface processes is a critical area for study when it comes to hazards and sustainability of the landscape.
  2. There is plenty of (and growing) employment in environmental geology that requires geomorphology background. The current growth area for fluvial geomorphology is stream resoration where interaction with biologists, engineers etc. makes for a fascinating occupation.
  3. Tectonic geomorphology is a crucial element of geology and of planetary history. and one in which there has been remarkable innovation in the last few years.
  4. New terrain analysis tools are just starting to let us see geomorphology in new ways.
  5. Far from being moribund, we are growing in national and international organisations and in journals.
  6. Earth surface processes are a major challenge for geophysics (in the broadest sense) - they cover all time scales and all spatial scales and they challenge our understanding of fluid flow, sediment movement, mechanics of materials - all in a context that is readily seen and observed by students - done right, a geomorphology course is great training for the earth science mind.
Peter Ashmore

ps. I'm fed up with geologists who think that geomorphology is a breeze, can be picked up in a single course by any fool, and is largely irrelevant to the earth sciences - but don't actually know what geomorphology is!!!!

If you wait a day or two I might get really worked up about it!

Peter Ashmore, Ph.D.
Graduate Chair
Department of Geography
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada
N6A 5C2

from Jim Springer

I don't get it. How can someone be a geologist without a fairly advanced knowledge of geomorphology? I use it ever day in my practice. It would be difficult to pass the professional registration exams without having studied geomorphology. You can't function as a field geologist without it.

Jim Springer

Woodward-Clyde Consultants

from Ted Hickin

I would suggest that you are confusing two issues. First, I believe that all geoscientists, regardless of their disciplinary backgrounds, would agree that the study of geomorphology is more important today than ever it has been in the past. The second and separate issue is where geomorphology finds its home: in physical geography or physical geology. Much of physical geography is geomorphology in many universities (esp in Canada & the UK) and much of physical geology is geomorphology at others (esp in the US). Perhaps the problem at your own institution is that two administrative units are claiming it as their own? In the end the resolution of such conflicts is as arbitrary as the way we divide up the sciences in general.



Ted Hickin
Professor, Earth Sciences & Geography,
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby BC  V5A 1S6   CANADA

from Jeffrey Kirtland

I will begin with a question, where are these geomorph naysayers from, the UK? As you may know, teaching geomorphology within geology departments is somewhat unique to the US. Geomorphology is often seen as "physical geography".

While I feel that geomorphology has the same connection to geography that let's say geophysics has to physics--this analogy can be extended to geochemistry and engineering geology--I do not think geophysics should be taught be the physics department. It sounds like some one found the support for teaching geomorphology to be weak and concocted this argument to save their own skin. I am here to say that this type of augment is shortsighted at best.

I received my Masters at Western Washington University, a school with a very strong hard rock tradition and a smaller, but lively, geomorphology program. While I was attending WWU 9 out of 10 incoming graduate students wished to pursue geomorphology and environmental projects. The department could not accommodate the incoming students needs so graduate admissions declined rapidly at the same time the university needed to cut programs. The WWU geology department was fortunate because several professors retired, freeing funds to hire new professors and diversify the department.

Geomorphology has become a hot topic in Western Washington because of state and industry efforts to understand the impact of timber harvest practices on salmonid habitat. Geomorphologist have also found a niche working for developers through the state growth management regulations. Some recent legal problems have slowed job growth, but in the long-term there will be a shortage of geomorphologist. So I feel your departments elimination of its geomorphology program is very shortsighted if not down right stupid. I feel very stongly about this subject.

Jeffey A. Kirtland, P.G.

5519 35th Avenue Northeast
Seattle, Washington
voice: 206-524-8599
fax: 206-524-8599

from Mark Melton

I ran into this attitude when I started looking for an academic position in 1955. Unfortunately, the geologists are correct, so far as geomorphology being a viable academic research field. That fact that can still read and criticise current geomorphic literature, despite the fact that I got my PhD in 1957 and have done nothing in particular to keep up with the field except read a published paper perhaps once or twice a year, tells you about how far the field has come in that time. It is understandable that the geography departments have pretty largely taken over the field, not only in Canada and the UK, but here also. There simply have been very few advancements in knowledge of a fundamental quality since! There are plenty of geological questions yet, but since they involve going beyond simply identifying features by their signatures, on satellite images, no one in academia seems to be studying these questions. Another reason is that the use of air photos and satellite images to seek for oil, which used to be an interesting geomorphic activity, has largely been superceded by geophysical methods.

The problems still remain, e.g. how do structures 4-6000 feet below the surface, beneath one or more unconformities, affect surface drainage patterns? How do surficial properties affect morphometric properties when drainage is "inherited" from a higher surface with different properties? I think you get the drift.

Beyond that, because of the great age of landform studies (back to Herodotus, and his study of Nile floods, and other ancients who seldom are thought about, since the classicists who study them haven't a clue what they are talking about), and since there is a huge amount of observable data, most of it uncollated or organized, there is little novelty in geomorphic studies that are "plain and simple" i.e. are not based on fractals or some such fad. Of course we still can't predict catastrophic events with any degree of confidence, and here in Las Vegas they are still building large structures in dry arroyos (not as often as formerly, I admit). And in general, the public awareness of the landforms around them is less complete than their knowledge of DNA or other glamorous fields that receive a lot of attention.

I told my colleagues at the University of Chicago, a totally research-oriented department then and now, that geomorphology and physical geology in general belonged in the same category as Egyptology. It was information that should be preserved, that is interesting in its own right, and that should be taught in junior highschool; but as far as killer research projects competing with physics and molecular biology, no way! I left Chicago in 1959 and spent 4+ years at the U of Arizona where, at that time, they were in the same state of knowledge as say, Pennsylvania was in the middle 1800s. A lot of it was pure exploration. It was fun, but of no particular interest to anyone else.

Anyway, tell the geologists they would have precious little information to go on if they had no surface in formation, but had to rely entirely on drilling and mining information.

With best wishes,

Mark A. Melton

from Jack Shroder

Well, as a geologist trained at the U of Utah I never discovered the antipathy that some geologists have about geomorph, and in fact I was sent over to the geography program for a minor so that I could pick up soils, water, and climate to be a better geomorphologist. Coupled with Quaternary stratigraphy, ground water, sedimentology, dating techniques, and other useful interdisciplinary (geol, geog, botany) techniques and you have a pretty powerful tool to undertake problems with Earth surface processes.

Then along come a few geologists ignorant of big picture interactions and geomorph gets lost in the shuffle. Congrats to you for picking it up. We had the same problem here on our Lincoln campus when a ground water type decided that geomorph was irrelevant in his scheme of things and could be done by others of his type. Better reason prevailed, however, when it was realized that the huge environmental industry really needed students trained in geomorphology. I am in the process oif converting part of the Iowa State University Field Program (ISU, UNO & UNL) in Shell, WY, from a purely bedrock geology program to a parallel program with a good deal of geomorph, geotechnical, and water-related topics. Our first big project will be slope failure and human development in the Big Horns, a very geomorph project.

And another example, a group of hard-rock tectonicists with whom I work in the Himalaya have just written a paper for Science, entitled "The geomorphology of metamorphism," wherein the action of energetic surface processes unload the crust and cause significant temperature and pressure changes at depth sufficient to produce major effects in the bedrock and the tectonism. If that isn't enough to convince the hard-rock types that geomorph is important, then they just don't have a clue. Furthermore, it took the soft-rock, geomorph types to prove what the hard-rockers suspected from their bedrock data - they weren't able to do it without us! Now they are talking about a tectonic aneuryism caused by rapid denudation.

Departments who newly understand the importance of geomrphology coupled with remote sensing, digital elevation assessments, geomorphometry, measurement of process rates, and close temporal assessment of geomorphic change can rapidly find themselves in a powerful position in problem solving in our modern world. Losing geomorphology, in my opinion, is a good way to increase irrelevance.

Hope that helps.

Jack Shroder

from Richard Marston

I'm disgusted and dismayed with geologists who proclaim that geomorphology is nothing more than physical geology. At this very time, GS is promoting a nationwide push to metamorphose geology into earth sciences because of declining enrollments and shrinking departments in geology. Do some geologists still believe that vegetation and animals play no role in the development of's nothing more than physical geology? Do some geologists really think that the role of humans in landform development is trivial? You should remind your geology colleagues of the PARTIAL influence that geologic structure plays on surface expression of topography. Remind them that climate (and climate CHANGE) create polygenic landforms. In my mind, the most important theme in geomorphology today is separating change caused by human activities from change that would have occurred without human interference. Making this distinction is absolutely critical before formulating natural resource management decisions that may exacerbate existing problems of landscape instability. A second major theme that relates to the relevance of geomorphology concerns the interaction between geomorphic features-processes-materials and those of biogeography, climate, hydrology. Landscape ecologists and aquatic biologists have "discovered" that the concepts and techniques of geomorphology help explain and predict many phenomena in their subject areas. Most environmental problems today are recognized as interdisciplinary, and geographers are better equipped to deal with this reality than geologists, who by their training and experience are not accustomed to examining more than what lies beneath the surface.

I will send you my chapter on "Geomorphology" from the 1989 book, Geography in America, edited by Gaile and Willmott. Although it is a decade old, it bears witness to the situation. You should also get in contact with Dave Butler who is updating this chapter for the next edition of Geography in America 2000. Dave is on top of what's happening in geomorphology as much as anyone and would be glad to carry-on a discourse with you on the topic. Geomorphology is growing within geography and shrinking in geology. The GSA Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division is dominated by Quaternary types and those of us more interested in surficial processes, earth system interactions, and the human role in geomorphology are turning to geography. Will Graf was able to document this with numbers in a column he wrote while serving as chair of the GSA-QG&G Division. I am a member of both the GSA and AAG, but its the AAG meetings and Binghamton meetings that attract my attention and dedication merely because I have found that geologists, as a gross generalization, are among the most parochial scientists of all scientific disciplines. 969 geomorphologists from 67 nations attended the 4th International Conference on Geomorphology in Bologna, Italy, last summer. Geomorphologists are being appointed to National Research Council Committees. The discipline is vibrant and contributing to solution of practical natural resource problems as never before.

I'm very glad to hear that you were able to save the geomorphology course for geography at SUU. Nice going! You live in a part of the country where geomorphology shines like a bright light in your face as you travel. I hope to take my family to your part of the world this summer to renew myself with the fantastic landscapes of southern Utah and to show my 12 year-old son, Bryce, his namesake, Bryce Canyon.

Dr. Richard A. Marston, Professor, AAG Secretary, Regional Councillor AAG
Great Plains-Rocky Mt. Div.
Department of Geography & Recreation
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY 82071-3371
DIRECT PHONE: 307-766-6386
DEPARTMENT PHONE: 307-766-3311
FAX: 307-766-3294

from Anne MacDonald

When I attended my first QG&G luncheon at GSA in 1979, Vic Baker announced to the assembled 200+ that Harvard had just announced that geomorphology was dead. After a stunned silence, there was much laughter. Vic is now president of GSA, and my advisors' (Tom Dunne and Ed Keller) geomorph students have never lacked for jobs, whether in neotectonics/tectonic geomorphology, landslides, soils, sediment routing in forested environments (important implications for the west coast salmonids on the endangered species lists), or fate and transport of hazardous wastes. Just ask the petrologists if they can match that. In fact, I've recently been involved in litigation in Utah over the specific timing and mode of transport of mine tailings - Stan Schumm was on the other side - and the arguments were based on sediment transport using reconstructions of land use, channel modifications, responses to storm flows, and redeposition of the transported sediments - all within the purview of geomorphology. Geomorphology may be covered in "just physical geology", but should be covered at a much more comprehensive level than can be attained in a one semester intro course. To work in this field, you have to read landscapes. And that takes time with what is going on in water quality (EPA's watershed focus, with sediment as a major source of impaired water quality and habitat either directly or because of metals/PCBs/phosphorus along for the ride), endangered species management (particularly in the west, where it is so often tied to aquatic habitat - think whooping cranes on the Platte, Prebles meadow jumping mouse here in the front range), habitat restoration, and understanding past responses to climate change as a predictor of the future, geomorphology is supremely relevant. Geology departments that don't recognize that will take on the fate of Snake River sockeye salmon or the whooping crane - endangered. Or at least irrelevant. Chalk one up for the geographers in avoiding that fate.

Can you tell you touched a nerve? Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Anne MacDonald, P.G.
Senior Geomorphologist
Exponent Environmental Group
(Formerly PTI Environmental Services)
4940 Pearl East Circle, Suite 300
Boulder, Colorado 80301
303/444-7270; Fax -7528

from Jack Vitek

As a geographer who moved into a geology department by choice, I would ask them where in physical geology they discuss the atmospheric characteristics and processes that generate precipitation that causes rainfall and runoff. Rainfall is hardly a geologic topic.

Ask how they address temperature changes and the causes for them...hardly geologic in nature EXCEPT for long term events such as raising a mountain range.

Ask how the wind is created and how that is a geologic force...

If they are older, they will not understand and they don't want to. I learned early on at Iowa that pre-Pleistocene geologists haven't got a clue about present processes. I have asked questions about aspect with regard to the receipt of energy on surfaces facing different directions and to most they ignore the variable.

How do they treat environmental geology without reference to atmospheric processes? How do they deal with soil? biologic forces? you collect ammunition to support your position, remember you catch more bears with honey than vinegar. Whereas geomorphology can be in either department, it still involves the same variables. Emphasis can change from instructor to instructor....but we must be certain that the students learn about the entire system and not just one full of bias.

Hope these random thoughts help.


Jack Vitek

from Donald L. Johnson

I would say that inasmuch as the roots of geology lie in geomorphology, and inasmuch as the entire field of environmental geology -- not to mention engineering geology -- deals with real geomorphological-societal problems, and inasmuch as geomorphology is NOT just physical geology, and inasmuch as geomorphology has much to offer many other disciplines (pedology, forestry, environmental studies, erosion-flood-landslide control, etc., etc., etc.) that whomever said that is either not very observant, is stupid, is so extremely narrowly focused on his/her own specialty that he/she is oblivious to professional reality (a generous way of defining stupidity), or is all of these.

from Victor Baker

What do you say to the geologists who claim that there is no longer a need for the study of geomorphology? First you might note that the President of the Geological Society of America (that's me) disagrees vehemently with them, not merely because I am a geomorphologist, but because the surface of the Earth and the processes acting upon it are at least as important for scientific inquiry (a science called "Geomorphology") as any other branch of geology/geophysics. If you want to add a bit about societal relevance, the fact that humans live on the surface of the Earth (not at the core-mantle boundary or the bottom of the ocean) has something to do with why society might be especially interested in the science of geomorphology. Perhaps your colleagues in geology need to stop talking to one another and think about the future of their discipline and its connection to allied sciences of societal relevance. You might also contact the officers of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of The Geological Society of America (one of the largest and most active divisions of the society), who I am sure will be happy to provide some enlightenment to counter the bizarre and parochial views that seem to held by your local geologists


Vic Baker

President, The Geogical Society of America

from Richard A. Marston

It has been said that scientists tend to take-on the qualities of the objects they study. Therefore, I bet the obstinate geologist who opposses your curriculum in geomorphology and GIS is a paleontologist who studies long-extinct dinosaurs.


Dr. Richard A. Marston, Professor,
AAG Secretary,
Regional Councillor AAG
Great Plains-Rocky Mt. Div.

from Antony Orme

I am delighted that you have been able to acquire geomorphology from those grumpy geologists who no longer believe. Good luck to you.

Your situation is reminiscent of UCLA in the mid-1960s when Bill Putnam, a distinguished geomorphologist in the geology department died suddenly and his department took this as an oppportunity to abandon geomorphology. Geography picked it up and I was brought in from Ireland to begin the program. Over the years we have been very successful and I alone have produced 26 Ph.D.s and 40 M.A.s in the field, many of whom have become quite distinguished in their chosen areas. Meanwhile, our geology department sought to dismiss sedimentology, languished for a long time, was fused with astronomy, planetary science, and geophysics into a department of earth & space science, and still has trouble in seeking enough undergraduates to justify its existence. Many of our geologists are indeed quite distinguished in geophysics and geochemistry, but continue to struggle for undergraduate justification.

In many respects, physical geology is geomorphology for the quantitatively challenged. It emphasizes descriptive notions of surface processes, generally at the lower division level, with little attempt at understanding process, at linking with the process-oriented and quantitative components of hydrology. oceanography and glaciology. In short, physical geology looks backward to the so-called 'heroic age' of geology in the early nineteenth century, rather than espousing the continuing discoveries of the later twentieth century.

Of course, our human geography colleagues can be just as blind to the posssibilities of geomorphology. Now that you have brought geomorphology into the geography fold, your human geography colleagues will need some nurturing and education but, if they are wise, they will encourage you in the interests of a more complete geography. As for those geologists, cultivate those who show some residual interest for the field, forget the rest. Geography's gain is geology's loss.

Good luck in your efforts,

Antony Orme,

Professor of Geography

from Jon Harbor

Your geomorphlist message struck a chord with me. The quick response to geologists who question the relevance of geomorphology is to write them off as so out of touch with their subject as to not be worth the time you spend on them. Do they not realise that the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of GSA is one of the largest in the society? The fact that they regard geomorphology as being basically physical geology is telling - in fact geomorphology is dominating intro geology these days (just browse thro the intro texts) because it is so central to the discipline. However, traditional geology programs and traditional geologists are perhaps reacting to the rising emphasis on 'environmental' in geology by trying to remove the more environment oriented courses that are drawing away the geology students who might otherwise have taken more traditional geology paths. Geomorphology is a natural target in this reaction. This doesn't mean that they no longer teach geomorphology - in fact they are increasing the geomorphology content of more traditional courses.

So, is moving the geomorphology course to geography a bad thing for your program? In most areas of the world geomorphology is primarily taught in geography departments. The US is in fact very unusual in having geomorphology so heavily skewed towards geology. There are historical reasons for this, of course, but it seems to me that it helps geography departments to be able to offer strong geomorphology as an integral part of physical geography. Ideally the subject should perhaps be taught jointly between geography and geology (both disciplines have a lot to offer the field), but this is probably rare to find given the realities of departmental politics.

Jon Harbor

(geomorphologist with degrees in both geography and geology)
Jon Harbor
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1397
765-494-9610 (phone)
765-496-1210 (fax)

from R. Forrest Hopson

Dr Larson, I'd say they're crazy. Of course, much of geomorph is probably just as well taught in a geog dept. Glacial geomorph is an example. But so much of geomorph also involves a helluva lot of geology such as development of landscapes by folding, faulting, mass waisting, and so forth.

I took a general geomorph course taught in the geography dept when I was college. In general it was good course, but as a geologist, I would have preferred to gotten a geologist's "bent" on the subject. My prof said a couple of things about volcanoes that were just plain WRONG!

I do think that geomorph is a useful course. I think you did the right thing by adding the class to your geog curriculum.

Sincerely, Forrest Hopson

from Carlo Bartolini

Geologists say that because many of them ignore the essence of geomorphology. They believe, for instance, that a fault-scarp IS a fault, so skipping the intriguing problem of tectonic versus erosion "competition".

We must not give up!

With all my best wishes


from Bill Locke

  • If the geologists aren't interested in the largest nonfuel geological resource (sand and gravel),
  • If they have no interest in groundwater quantity and quality,
  • If they don't care about analogs for sedimentary depositional environments,
  • If they are unconcerned with process-related hazards such as floods,
  • If they find human/landscape interactions (construction, reclamation) irrelevant, and
  • If they find planetary geology uninspiring,
    Then they should definitely relegate those topics to someone (like a physical geographer) who is interested in them.

    William W. Locke; Professor, Geology

    Department of Earth Sciences
    Montana State University - Bozeman
    Bozeman, MT  59717-3480
    (406) 994-6918; FAX -6923

    from Carol Jaworowski

    The study of geomorphology is very relevant to many applied problems. It's use in petroleum geology for exploration of hydrocarbons is a current topic. Recently, AAPG (in Salt Lake ) had a special session on geomorphology and tectonics. And of course, landuse decisions relate to geomorphology. Becuase of its association with landuse, geomorphology appeals to curious public citizens. Although I am not personally invovled in geohydrology, geomorphology is a relevant base for those studies.

    Some objections about geomorphology relate to theories about landform development that are hard to prove. Geomorphic studies that do not numerically constrain processes or landform development are not looked on favorably. In fact, they may be seen as out-dated.


    Cheryl Jaworowski, Ph.D.

    Post-Doctoral Researcher
    Institute for Energy Research
    University of Wyoming

    from Bill Mahaney

    Is Geomorphology geography or geology? This was a question on the final exam in a 300-level course in geology at Indiana University taught by Bill Thornbury back in the mid-60's. As a grad student in geography at the time I was told by my peers that the only answer possible was that geomorphology was geology. Thornbury would not accept any other possibility. I got round this by arguing that 'geomorphology is geomorphology' and making it subservient to one field or the other was merely bureaucratic, more or less a waste of time. Geomorphology might just as well be allied with chemistry, atmospheric sciences or agricultural sciences. WT (William Thornbury) was stumped, hardly amused but he had to admit I had a point and he handed out a rather high grade. Later, I found out it all had to do with politics. WT had been tossed out of geography and landed in geology, apparently much to his chagrin. This is hardly an itellectual exercise and amounts to little more than academic hubris or hunting for increased enrollment to satisfy administration quotas.

    Bill Mahaney


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