The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences traces its origins to the establishment of MIT by geologist William Barton Rogers in 1861. Before distinguishing himself as the University's founder and first president, Rogers was a professor of natural philosophy and chemistry. He also served as State Geologist of Virginia, which explains why geology courses have been taught at MIT for more than a century.
To trace our planet’s history and better predict its future, EAPS geologists are developing highly accurate means of monitoring material and chemical fluxes through the Earth system, describing and imaging the Earth’s crust, and measuring time in the geologic record. Among several interrelated categories of active research are: Tectonics geared towards a better understanding of how the Earth’s systems—from the atmosphere to the core—influence each other as matter and energy are transferred among them; Petrology - aimed at understanding the conditions, timing, and rates of igneous and metamorphic processes in the Earth and planets; Sedimentary Geology - important both for understanding the complex interactions that shape modern Earth surface environments, and for interpreting the geologic history of the continents and the oceans; and Surface Processes and Landform Evolution - with an emphasis on the quantitative, mechanistic study of sediment production, erosion, transport, and deposition.