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Curiosity Forum: If These Walls Could Talk (5/29/16)

Stone walls are an enduring testimony to the strenuous labors and strong work ethic of subsistence farmers who toiled for generations on ~100-acre lots.  Those lots had been defined by hardy teams of surveyors that used compasses and chains to define the magnetic directions and lengths of boundaries.  Farmers cleared large sections of their properties of trees not only for the purposes of grazing animals and growing crops, but also for building structures, cooking food, and heating homes.  The perimeters of those fields were often defined by stone walls.  As we venture into the deep woods today, we frequently encounter these forgotten stone walls that remind us that other people long ago had cleared this land and knew it well.  Modern airborne surveys using ‘Light Detection And Ranging’ (LiDAR) not only reveal the vast extent of these stone walls in New York and New England (total length ~250,000 miles), but also other interesting aspects. This fascinating talk will be presented by John Delano, a professor of chemistry at SUNY–Albany. 

About John Delano

As a young boy, John spent many years in a rural community in New Hampshire where he acquired an enduring curiosity about the stone walls that he often found while exploring the woods.  When were they built?  Who built them?  Why are they in the woods?  During the last several years with his partial retirement, his interest has been rekindled.  He has explored the history of 18th and 19th century farms in the Northeastern United States using archival research, Global Positioning Systems, and airborne sensors (i.e., LiDAR) to extract some of the ‘memory’ contained within the stone walls. 

Delano received his PhD in geochemistry at Stony Brook University, and currently holds the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at the University at Albany.  He is also the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University.  Professor Delano has served on, and chaired, numerous scientific review panels for both NASA and the National Science Foundation.  His research has been funded by NASA, and has resulted in 65 publications in the professional scientific literature.  

He is married with one child.  His family has made major commitments to renewable energy systems at their rural home to live in an environmentally sustainable way. 

Event date: 
Sunday, May 29, 2016 - 2:00pm
Event address: 
Freight Depot Theater
Hubbard Hall, 25 E. Main St.
Cambridge, NY 12816


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Event | by Dr. Radut