George G. Groff was born in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania on April 5, 1851, the son of Susan Beaver and John Groff, a farmer. He graduated from West Chester State Normal School in Pennsylvania as the only male student alongside nine women in the school's first graduating class in 1874. In the summer of that year he taught mineralogy during a special summer school for teachers organized by the West Chester State Normal School. He attended Michigan University, receiving his Doctor of Medicine degree from Long Island College Hospital in 1877. He joined the faculty at the Normal School in the fall of 1877 as professor of natural sciences.
While at West Chester, he began the preparation and publication of his popular charts and pamphlets for use as "teaching accessories" by teachers and students, a forerunner of today's "visual aids." His first one was a chart of all the "Common Minerals, Ores and Rocks of Chester County," prepared for use in the schools of the county, "so that anyone may easily determine the name of the species."
In the notice of a summer school course in mineralogy he conducted in West Chester in July 1878, it was pointed out that the "lectures will be illustrated by an abundance of specimens, which will be placed before the students" and that "several excursions for minerals will be made into the adjacent country to well-known localities, and at least thirty characteristic specimens can be guaranteed to each student." "In natural science," it was further pointed out, "it is only by seeing that we really understand and learn the matter under consideration." (The cost of the one-week summer course, incidentally, was $2.50!). He also published a booklet on "Mineral Analysis," intended for use "in laboratories where determinative mineralogy is taught," with "a full syllabus of terms for physical and chemical description of minerals" (1889); charts detailing "Fifty Common Minerals, Ores, and Rocks" and "The Common Minerals and Ores of the States of Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Maryland" (1892).
In 1879, Groff was appointed Professor of Organic Sciences at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1880 he married Margaret Palmer Marshall, and together they had five children. In 1886 Groff undertook a year of advanced studies at the University of Leipzig. After returning, he served as acting president of Bucknell University in 1887-1888. Groff was for 31 years a professor at Bucknell University, for 13 years a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Health, for ten years a member of the State Board of Agriculture, received the rank of surgeon-major of Pennsylvania troops in the Spanish-American war, and was for two years superintendent of public instruction and medical director in Puerto Rico.
George Groff died suddenly (heart failure) at the age of 58, on February 18, 1910, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
The Groff Collection of Rocks and Minerals likely represents one of the first collections used by students studying geology at the Lock Haven State Normal School in the early 1900s. The collection was discovered in a storage room during a move to the East Campus Science Center and has been cleaned and restored. For further information about the Groff Collection or other historic collections housed in the geology department, please contact Dr. Loretta Dickson, Department Geology and Physics.
GOSHORN, B. (1987) Who was George Groff? History Quarterly of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, vol. 25, no, 2, p. 59-66.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 12. (1904)
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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||George Groff's teaching collection of minerals from the Lock Haven State Normal School. (photo courtesy of John S. White)|