JULIA GARDNER (1882-1960)
Julia Gardner was born in South Dakota to a physician father and schoolteacher mother. Raised mostly in South Adams, Massachusetts, Gardner attended Bryn Mawr College (the first American women’s college to offer graduate education through the PhD level) for her undergraduate and master’s degrees. There she met Florence Bascom, who encouraged her interests. This relationship helped Gardner obtain a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University for her PhD, where she was the first woman admitted as a full-time student to their Department of Geology.
After completing her degree, Gardner stayed on to teach – sometimes without pay. At the same time she worked for the USGS, where she began her long career of research on the stratigraphy and paleontology of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. During World War II, she was part of the USGS Military Geology Unit (MGU), which provided maps, aerial photos, and other information to the military. Among her contributions, Gardner helped to identify beaches in Japan from which balloon-borne incendiary bombs were being launched against the Pacific coast of the U.S., by identifying the shells in the sand ballast of the balloons. After the war, Gardner visited Japan and Palau, and participated in the geological mapping of many western Pacific islands. Gardner served as a mentor to a number of other women paleontologists, including Esther Applin, Alva Ellisor, and Winifred Goldring.
Gardner served as president of the Paleontological Society in 1952. In 1953, she became the third woman to hold the vice presidency of the Geological Society of America. Upon retirement from the USGS, she received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Department of the Interior's highest honor.