Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography Page: 25
This book is part of the collection entitled: Rescuing Texas History, 2010 and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries .
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In one of our little chats I told him about the fern shapes I
had seen impressed in the shale. He asked me how far down I
had been working, and I replied at the nineteen-hundred-foot
level. In this period, of course, the allied theories of biological
and geological evolution were much discussed, and had made a
profound impression on the minds of all educated people. There-
fore, Dr. McKinnon took this opportunity to explain to me the
geodynamics of the coal deposits, as they were then understood.
He described the laying down of the sedimentary sandstone
beneath, the compression above it of carboniferous vegetable
matter into coal, the deposition of clay layers above, and the
folding of the whole by subterranean upheaval. The designs in
the shale, he said, were the imprints of fossil tree ferns, or cycads.
Then he offered to lend me a book on the whole matter.
Very likely it was Lyell's Principles of Geology, since Dr. Mc-
Kinnon no doubt would have been attracted by the master work
of a fellow Scot. There it all stood in print, the fossil ferns and
animal life and the structure of the earth's rocky integument.
The technical language was beyond me and I had no dictionary
to help. I found the argument mystifying, but at the same time
I believed it. Had not Dr. McKinnon, most learned man I had
ever encountered, himself recommended it to me?
Hesitantly I showed Dr. McKinnon some pencil sketches I
had made of the ferns, sketches at least crudely similar to the
fine engravings of the book. His face lit up and he nodded his
approval. As he handed them back to me, he said: "You must
keep these, Donald. Someday you will get yourself an educa-
tion. Then you will prize them as your first scientific effort." I
still have these faded sketches. The ink has paled and the paper
has turned yellow, but they vividly remind me of the gropings
and seekings of my childhood.
Dr. McKinnon also mentioned that his son had told him I
would like to be a doctor. Was there anyone who might back
me up financially? No, there was not. I told him that I ex-
Here’s what’s next.
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Atkinson, Donald Taylor. Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography, book, 1958; New York. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143566/m1/37/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.