Edwin James (1797-1861) was born in Weybridge, Addison County, Vermont, just 5 months after James Hutton, founder of modern geology, died in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edwin was the youngest of 13 children born to Deacon Daniel James and wife Mary. He studied medicine with his older brother in Albany, New York, after graduating from Middlebury College (Vermont) at the age of 19. While studying medicine, he became interested in geology and was influenced by Amos Eaton of the Rensselaer School. Upon completing his medical studies. James accepted a position in the spring of 1820 as a botanist/geologist with the Maj. Stephan H. Long Expedition. He was the first man to reach the summit of James' Peak, now named Pike's Peak, and made notes on the geology of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. In 1823 "An Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains Performed in the Years 1819 and '20," written mostly by James, was published in Philadelphia (2 vols.) and London (3 vols.). This major work, from a Wernerian viewpoint, and five other lesser ones were published between 1820 and 1827. They were the sum total of his geological contributions, but included in the "Account" is the first geological map of the trans-Mississippi region. In 1823 he was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army; after leaving the Army in 1833 he later settled near Burlington, Iowa, where he was engaged in agriculture until his death in 1861.

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