Prof. Andrew Cowper Lawson

1861 - 1952

Geologist. Born in Anstruther (Fife), Lawson emigrated to Canada with his parents at age six. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1883, continuing to complete a Masters degree in 1885 and then a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore in 1888, while working for the Geological Survey of Canada. In 1890, he joined the University of California at Berkeley as Assistant Professor of Mineralogy and Geology and was promoted to Professor in 1899. He served in this role for the rest of his career and did much to establish the teaching and research reputation of that institution in geology.

He had varied interests, making a world-leading contribution on the interpretation of Pre-Cambrian strata, but Lawson is perhaps noted in his role Chairman of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission. He organised an extensive programme of fieldwork to investigate the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and prepared the most complete report that had ever published on an earthquake, widely regarded as a landmark study. He ensured that his home in La Loma Park, Berkeley (1907), now known as Lawson House, was designed to withstand earthquakes. Lawson went on to serve as consulting geologist during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco 1933-37.

He served as President of the Seismological Society of America (1909), President of the Geological Society of America (1926) and was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Toronto (1923), the University of California (1935) and Harvard University (1936). He also received the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America in 1938.

He died in Berkeley. The mineral Lawsonite is named after him.

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