Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
Lane, Alfred Church, 1863-1948
|Alfred Church Lane (1863-1948) was Pearson Professor of Geology and Mineralogy from 1909-36 and recipient of the Ballou Medal. Best known for directing research on the determination of the age of the Earth, he is also known by some atomic scientists as the "Forgotten Man" of atomic research for his role in early work on splitting the atom.|
A descendent of Thomas Dudley, a founder and four-time governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, Lane was born on January 29, 1863, in Boston and attended Boston Latin High School. After graduating from Harvard in 1883, he remained at the institution as a mathematics instructor. From 1885 to 1887 he studied at the University of Heidelberg, returning to Harvard in 1888 to receive his doctorate. The following year he worked as petrographer of the Michigan State Geological Survey and as an instructor in the Michigan College of Mines. He achieved the position of state geologist for Michigan before returning to the East Coast in 1909 to take up the position of Pearson Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Tufts. He remained at the college until his retirement in 1936, at which time he became Pearson Professor of Geology and Mineralogy Emeritus. This action was in response to his decision not to subscribe to the state's teachers' oath. In 1940, he was the recipient of the Ballou Medal for distinguished service to education and the Nation, awarded by Tufts College.
Working with Otto Hahn, a German scientist, Lane helped to inaugurate an international plan for the exchange of scientific information on smashing the atom in the early 1920s. Lane was the first American to receive notice from Hahn about his successful splitting of a uranium atom in 1938, who immediately passed the information on to Washington. In 1929, Lane became the first consultant in science ever appointed at the Library of Congress. Over the course of his lifetime, he published 1087 articles and reports in both scientific and general journals. He was also a past president of the Geological Society of America and was affiliated with several international geologic and academic associations. He also supported the YMCA and was a dedicated servant of the Boy Scouts of America. A peleochoric amphibole mineral, known as Lanenite, is named for the scientist.
Lane Hall, home to the Geology Department and former headquarters of the Bouve-Boston School of Occupational Therapy and Physical Education was dedicated in Lane's honor in 1968. There is also a memorial tablet in Goddard Chapel.
Lane died on April 14, 1948 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was survived by his wife and three children, including Fredric C. Lane, G1922.
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