K.F. Mather (1888-1978)
Kirtley Fletcher Mather graduated in geology from Denison University in 1909. He went on to the University of Chicago, where he did important geomorphologic work in the San Juan Mountains and pursued a Ph.D. in paleontology while teaching at the University of Arkansas. His thesis, on Morrowan (Pennsylvanian age) fossils of Oklahoma served as a valuable tool for petroleum geologists working in the Mid-continent. Mather taught geology at Denison from 1918 to 1924, taking two leaves to explore the mountains and jungles of Bolivia for oil. That work caught the attention of a search committee at Harvard University, and Mather moved to Cambridge for an active career spanning three decades (1924-1954).
The national spotlight first fell on Mather during the 1925 SCOPES TRIAL, where Kirtley served as part of the defense team headed by Clarence Darrow. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-'39) Mather was an outspoken supporter of the anti-Franco forces. In the late 1940s and '50s, he became a major figure in the debate between Sen. Joseph McCarthy and politically liberal elements of the American academic community.
A generalist celebrated for his exceptional teaching, excellence as a book reviewer, and concern for American education, Mather was also a significant voice in the dialogue between science and religion. He was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was four-term President of the American Association of Arts and Sciences.