Alumni Hall of Fame

Douglass Houghton
Douglass Houghton
Inducted September 2003

Douglass Houghton

Class of 1829
Geologist
1809-1845

Douglass Houghton, who was named assistant professor of chemistry and natural history at Rensselaer following his graduation, was destined to become one of the great pioneers of geological and mining sciences in the country. He served in numerous scientific capacities during his brief lifetime, including medical doctor.

At Amos Eaton’s recommendation, he was invited by the Michigan legislature to lecture on chemistry, botany, and geology. His success was immediate and he was appointed Michigan’s first state geologist at age 28. Houghton’s efforts led to the discovery of deposits of salt, copper, and iron in the state, with enormous impact on the state’s young economy.

His work on a thorough survey of the wild lands of the U.S., approved by Congress, was cut short when he drowned in a storm on Lake Superior.

A city, a county, and a lake honor his name in Michigan.