August Foerste – This Guy Rocks

Born May 7th, 1862, in Dayton to parents John and Louise, August Foerste (pronounced first-ee) became Dayton’s very own Natural Historian. After attending a lecture by OSU president and geologist Edward Orton in high school, August became interested geology. He graduated from Old Central High School in 1880, then taught at Schoolhouse No. 2 in Centerville until 1883.

During his time teaching, August studied the Allen Quarry tucked away in Centerville (where the Rod & Reel Fishing Club is now), and identified and named the formation there, and discovered a new classification of limestone – which he named the Brassfield limestone. He was also responsible for naming a rock formation the Beavertown Marl at the quarry site at Wilmington Pike and Dorothy Lane. August had found his specialty, and many fossils found in the Centerville area were named by him.

From 1883 to 1887, August attended Denison University in Granville Ohio, and received his Bachelor’s degree, then he attended Harvard where he received both his Master’s in 1888, and his Ph.D. in 1890. August also continued his studies at Heidelberg University in Germany, and College de France in Paris. After his studies, August returned to Dayton in 1893 and taught Physics at Steele High School until he retired in 1932, at age 70.

During the Great Flood of 1913, August nearly lost his research – manuscripts, field notes, and paleontology collection – but the boxes were recovered with the help of his friends. Using his rescued research, August published a book in 1915, titled Geology of Dayton and Vicinity.

August spent his summers and vacations conducting geological surveys for the US and Canada, and beginning around 1920, his summers were spent researching at the US National Museum (the Smithsonian) in Washington D.C. After his retirement in 1932, August moved to D.C. full time, where he stayed until his death in 1936. While visiting his sister in Dayton, August died of a heart attack on April 23, 1936, and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in his sister’s family plot.

Throughout his career, August had many accomplishments:

  • A Fellow of the Geological Society of America
  • A founder of the Paleontological Society – also served as president in 1928
  • Served as a representative of the Paleontological Society on the National Research Council
  • Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Member of the Ohio Academy of Science, and served as president in 1931
  • Member of the Washington Academy of Science
  • Presented with an honorary membership of the Engineers Club of Dayton in 1926
  • Given an honorary Doctorate of Science by Denison University in 1927

In 2003, several boxes of August’s unpublished field notes and manuscripts were discovered in the Smithsonian’s archives.

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