Our History

The Minnesota Geological Survey's origins can be traced as far back as 1872, at which time the Legislature established the Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota as part of the University of Minnesota, with Newton Horace Winchell as first Director.

The Survey was discontinued upon Winchell’s retirement in 1900 and publication of his Final Report on The Geology of Minnesota in 1901, although the natural history function later became the Bell Museum. In 1911, new Department Chair William H. Emmons of the U.S. Geological Survey specified reinstatement of a State Geological Survey as a condition of his acceptance, and he became second Director of the Survey.

Ensuing Directors, based in Pillsbury Hall, were Frank F. Grout in 1944, George M. Schwartz in 1948, and Paul K. Sims in 1961 – their era culminated with "Geology of Minnesota: A Centennial Volume" in 1972, and a move off-campus, to Eustis Street in the 1970s, and to University Avenue in the 1980s. Matt S. Walton, appointed Director in 1973, oversaw expanded geophysical surveys to support mineral exploration, as well as initiation of drill hole databases and the County Geologic Atlas program.

Priscilla C. Grew of California became Director in 1986, MGS geologist David L. Southwick succeeded her in 1993, and L. Harvey Thorleifson of the Geological Survey of Canada was appointed Director in 2003. In 2023, Anthony (Tony) C. Runkel assumed the role of Interim Director alongside his duties as MGS Lead Geologist. The post-~2000 focus has been on optimizing statewide geoscience information needed for groundwater management. In 2015, the MGS moved to its current location on Territorial Road in St Paul.

Historical field notebooks

Our collection of Minnesota Geological Survey field notebooks dating from 1877 to 1990 have been archived at the University of Minnesota's UMedia Archive Library.

View the MGS field notebooks collection