American explorer, first head of the U.S. Geological Survey. Born in Newport, Rhode Island about 1842; died about 1908. King studied under Agassiz at Harvard during one of the winters of his Yale education. King headed one of four rival geological surveys after the Civil War, concentrating on California and specifically the Sierra Nevada (unlike Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler). When the surveys were merged in 1879, King became director with Powell's backing. However, he quit abruptly in 1881 to search for gold in Mexico. A neo-Lamarckian, like many Harvard-trained naturalists of his generation.
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