Collection Overview

Title: Victor E. Schmidt Collection

Predominant Dates:1979–1995

Samples, tools, and research data from Victor E. Schmidt's extensive study of the Sixmile Creek area. Of particular note are his "field tapes": these are long, thin sheets of notes designed to be placed next to the samples to indicate specific features of the varves.

Biographical Note

Victor E. Schmidt was born in Brooklyn, New York and received his early education from Brooklyn public schools. He attended New York University from 1930 to 1932, then transferred to Cornell University, receiving a B.A. in zoology from Cornell in 1934. He pursued graduate studies in science education at Columbia University, and geology, science education, and biology at Cornell, receiving a Ph.D. in geology from Cornell. Vic's 1947 doctoral thesis, "Varves in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State," is available in the PRI library.

Vic began his career as a high school science teacher in Phoenix, Saugerties, and Cobleskill, New York. Later, while continuing his graduate studies, he taught at Cornell and the New York State Teachers College at Cortland. In 1949 he accepted a position as professor in the Earth Sciences department at what was then the New York State Teachers College at Brockport. There his focus and passion lay primarily in teaching future and current teachers the art of bringing science to life for students, promoting curiosity and discovery through hands-on experiences. He authored and co-authored numerous publications in science education as well as a widely adopted elementary science textbook series. After his retirement in 1978, Vic remained involved as a member of the State University of New York College at Brockport faculty in emeritus status for the rest of his life.

Vic was active in the Science Teachers Association of New York State (then the New York State Science Teachers Association), and in 1950, was named one of the first STANYS Fellows for his contributions to the organization and to science education. He participated in multiple reunions of the Friends of the Pleistocene held between 1941 and 1981, and is listed among the "party faithful" of that academic interest group. In addition, he presented papers at several Geological Society of America Northeastern Section meetings.

Although his primary concentration was in glacial geology, Vic was also very interested in paleontology and structural geology. From 1952 to 1955, he lived and traveled extensively in the American West, teaching, studying and collecting. He continued his New York State research after returning to the state, discovering a new fossil plant species from the Devonian era, subsequently named Tetraxylopteris schmidtii. Specimens of this discovery are exhibited at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.

Vic's early research focus on the varved clays of the Sixmile Creek area in and around Ithaca continued throughout his career. The results of these investigations, consisting of extensive varved clay cores and samples, along with related field notes, analyses, and other research materials, now form the Victor E. Schmidt Collections at the Paleontological Research Institution.

Media Highlights | From the Collection

Victor Schmidt devised two variants of a device to collect a 24-inch-long sample of varved sediment from a pre-augured core hole. This permitted sampling in areas where a sample could not be obtained from a sloping surface. One such device is in the Schmidt Collection at PRI. Schmidt's incomplete description of the device, together with sketches, has been edited and synthesized by the collection organizers. This, as well as the original notes, also resides in the collection.

  • A student using Victor Schmidt's sampling device.
  • Victor Schmidt's sampling device, from the collection.
  • Varves.

The PRI Specimen Collections include some of Victor Schmidt’s varves. To access these materials, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo of Victor E. Schmidt courtesy of Carol Weimer and Emilie Kane.


Schmidt, V. E. 1944. New York Earth Science Demonstrations in a Glass-sided Trough. School Science and Mathematics 4 (1): 6‒11.

Schmidt, V. E. 1947. Boulders of Interglacial Conglomerate in Central New York. American Journal of Science 245: 127‒133.

Schmidt, V. E., and V. N. Rockcastle. 1968. Teaching Science with Everyday Things. McGraw-Hill, New York, 167 pp.

Rockcastle, V. N., F. R. Salamon, V. E. Schmidt, and B. J. McKnight. 1972. Elementary School Science. Addison-Wesley, Menlo Park, California, 7 v.

Schmidt, V. E. 1973. Glacial Geology of the Western Finger Lakes Region. Field Trip Guidebook of the NYS Geological Association.