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Gerald and Sue Friedman manuscript collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC 72

Scope and Contents

The Gerald and Sue Friedman Manuscript collection (MC 72) is part of a larger History of Geology Collection compiled by the Friedmans over many years. It contains nearly 300 manuscript items documenting the development of the science of geology. Materials in the collection range from early icons of the history of geology such as William Smith’s A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales—the “map that changed the world” and James Hutton’s Abstract of a Dissertation Read in the Royal Society of Edinburgh to rare student manuals and early U.S. state geology surveys. Dr. and Mrs. Friedman assembled over many years a collection of manuscript material to complement their library on the history of geology and related sciences. They formed relationships with dealers, primarily two British document specialists, so that they might be offered the broadest range of material. Though their intention was to acquire letters with content that would add dimension to the published works in their book collection, they occasionally purchased “clipped” signatures and other items of a purely autograph-collecting nature for use when displaying their book collection. They also acquired some items that are purely ancillary to the collection, for example, a snippet of a reused ledger in George Washington’s handwriting. However, the main strength of the collection is that many of the letters add to an understanding of the scientific work that the authors were engaged in – the lectures they were giving; the material they borrowed; the publications they worked on; and the controversies they were involved in. There is a strong sense of intellectual community – particularly since the Friedmans were able to collect some groups of letters that show the range of an individual’s correspondence. The letters of William Buckland, Thomas Henry Huxley, Lord Kelvin, Roderick Impey Murchison, Richard Owen, John Phillips, Adam Sedgwick, and Alexander Von Humboldt – all provide breadth of communication. Even the letters which mention nothing specifically about science reveal a strong social network within the scientific community. Single items of note include Alexander Cuming’s 1739 petition for relief of debt to William Yonge; Erasmus Darwin’s 1771 account book; Sidney Godolphin’s 1689 document regarding aid to the county of Westmoreland; Sydney S. Lyon’s letter of 1877 to James Hall included with his Remarks on the Stratigraphical Arrangement of Rocks in Kentucky; William Vans Murray’s 1800 news of the convention signed with France; and Archibald Campbell’s 1844 near east travel journal.


  • Created: 1702-1930
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1739-1895
  • Other: Date acquired: 09/05/2009

Biographical or Historical Information

Gerald Friedman was born in 1921 in Berlin. His family moved to London just prior to World War II. Here Freidman studied Chemistry at Chelsea College. Friedman moved to the United States in 1946. First working as a pharmaceutical researcher. Friedman's education and professional involvement in the field of Geology went immediatley into high gear. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University; earned a Doctorate of Science from the University of London and received an honorary Doctorate of Natural Science from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Dr. Friedman was as a geochemist and petrologist in the Appalachians and the Canadian Shield. He then went on to become a research geologist and director of sedimentology research at the Amoco Research Laboratory in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Gerald Friedman  began teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1964 and retired from RPI in 1984. Soon after, he went on to join the faculty at the City University of New York, Brooklyn, where he worked with graduate students and post-doctoral researchers on carbonate deposits, regional stratigraphy, the environmental geology of rivers, amongst a variety of other topics. He retired from CUNY in 2004, but continues his research on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of Paleozoic deposits and prospective gas storage reservoirs in New York State and evaporite and carbonate deposition worldwide Countless activities related to Dr. Friedman's interests highlight his career. Dr. Friedman is the founder and director of the Northeastern Science Foundation in Troy, New York; served as an officer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Geological Society of America, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and the New York State Geological Association; served as editor of several publications and as a member of more than 20 advisory committees. Furthermore Dr. Friedman is the author or co-author of over 500 publications. His classic textbook, Principles of Sedimentology, co-authored with J.E. Sanders is an extraordinary work exemplifying Dr. Friedman's interest in complex subject matter. Dr. Friedman has won a number of prestigeous awards for his work, including the American Geological Institute's 2005 Legendary Geoscientist Award, the Geological Society of America's Mary C. Rabbit Memorial Medal, the Sidney Powers Memorial Medal, the John T. Galey, Jr. Memorial Award, The Association of Earth Science Editors Award for Outstanding Editing and the Distinguished Educator Award. He is also the recipient of the SEPM Twenhofel Medal, and the Hollis D. Hedberg Award in Energy from the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Freidman's wife, Sue Tyler Friedman, was extremely supportive of her husband's work over the decades. Mrs. Friedman played an instrumental role in acquiring many of the materials which encompass the Friedman History of Geology Collection. A testament to Mrs. Friedman's dedication and contributions to the field is the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal, which is awarded by the Geological Society of London for work on the history of geology.

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Language of Materials



This collection contains nearly 300 manuscript items related to the science of geology.  Together with over 500 rare books it is part of the Gerald and Sue Friedman History of Geology Collection.

Arrangement Note

Arranged in alphabetical order.

Custodial History

These materials were collected by Dr. and Mrs. Friedman during the course of Professor Friedman’s over 50 year career as a geologist and educator. The collection was donated to Rensselaer in 2008 and 2009.

Source of Acquisition

Gerald and Sue Friedman

Related Materials

Friedman History of Geology Book Collection

John Dojka
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Institute Archives and Special Collections Repository

110 8th Street
Institute Archives and Special Collections
Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy NY 12180-3590 US
518 276 8340