M. Gordon Wolman

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1924 – 2010


Who was M. Gordon Wolman?

Markley Gordon Wolman was an American geographer. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Haverford College before being drafted into the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned to Baltimore and graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 1949 with a degree in Geography. He earned a doctorate in Geology from Harvard University in 1953.

As a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1950s, he and colleague Luna Leopold published pioneering studies on how and why rivers change. With their emphasis on measuring rivers' characteristics, including depths and velocities and the size of river-bottom pebbles, they transformed geomorphology -- the study of landforms' evolution -- from a descriptive to a quantitative discipline, making it possible to predict how natural and human-caused perturbations might affect river channels. Their 1964 textbook, "Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology," co-written with John Miller, is considered a seminal work.

Dr. Wolman applied his expertise to local problems beginning in the 1960s, when his report on how runoff from construction projects was choking Maryland's streams with sediment helped lead to new state regulations. He later headed the Oyster Roundtable, a coalition of environmentalists, watermen and scientists that designed a plan to reverse the Chesapeake Bay's catastrophic oyster decline during the 1990s.

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Aug 16, 1924
United States of America
  • Harvard University
Feb 24, 2010

on July 23, 2013


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