Berkeley's first paleontologist,
by Jere Lipps (page 1 of 5)
The University of California, chartered on March 23, 1868, immediately began to hire professors and the first of several contentious issues that characterized paleontology at Berkeley emerged. J.B. Cooper, who collected for the Geological Survey of California, wanted the faculty position in natural history and he even obtained support from the Smithsonian Institution. However, the Regents had already appointed Joseph Le Conte as the Professor of Natural History, Geology and Botany. An unhappy Cooper wrote that Le Conte got the position because of the southern influence among the Regents, stating that the university was
"being made into a perfect asylum for ex-rebel professors."
Le Conte (left) hadheld the Chair of Chemistry and Geology at South Carolina College in
Columbia, SC (Armes 1903), but during the Civil War, Columbia was burned by General T.
Sherman. Le Conte and his brother John lost everything, including confidence in the support
for the College, so both applied to the newly forming University of California. For the
first four years, both of the Le Contes taught in Oakland, then at the university’s South
Hall beginning in 1873 (below).