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THE MICROPALEONTOLOGY PROJECT
Eighty years of service to our colleagues


Quotations are from internal reports

October 26, 1929 ‚ Stock market crash; the Great Depression begins.

July 1930 – Brooks F. Ellis joins the faculty of the Department of Geology at New York University, bringing with him the first pages of an illustrated catalogue of the Foraminifera, on which he has been working since 1928. In 1932 he receives his PhD and services of a student assistant, Angelina R. Messina.

In view of the fact that there are over 12,000 of the genera and species of Foraminifera ... the undertaking appeared to be an almost hopeless one. With the aid of students at the University,the compilation actually got under way.

NOTE -The Catalogue of Foraminifera now contains over 45,000 taxa.

July 1931 – Private charities in New York join to create the Emergency Work Bureau.

September 1931 – Ellis obtains the assistance of four men from the Emergency Work Bureau, and puts them on the job of preparing a bibliography of literature on Foraminifera.

“This phase of the work occupied about a year, and resulted in a card index of about 50,000 references."

May 1933 – FDR creates the Civil Works Administration, modeled on the EWB.

January 2, 1934 – Ellis hires 82 artists, photographers, typists, librarians, and geologists through the Civil Works Administration, using space at 13 Astor Place donated by the Alexander Hamilton Institute. Civil Works Division Project 89 FB 1122, “Micropaleontology Project,” is launched.

September 1934 – The Project is evicted, moves to A. W. Stephens printing plant in Brooklyn. The Borough of Brooklyn provides carpenters and painters, while individuals and businesses donate furniture and materials.

October 1934 – CWA abolished as “wasteful”, Emergency Relief Bureau formed.

April 1935 – The Project is reorganized, with a quota of 60 people.

“About one year more will be required to finish the first draft of the manuscript and to complete our very extensive card index. This will mean, at this time, we will have in our files between twelve and fifteen thousand descriptions of species and and about 25,000 detailed illustrations. Our card index will expand to about 300,000 references.”

NOTE -The card index (presently nder development as an online resource) exceeds 780,000 references to foraminifera species alone.

August 1935 – The Works Progress Administration is created.

September 1935 – With the American Museum of Natural History as sponsor the Project, renamed the “Geologic Catalogue”, obtains a WPA grant for a term of two years, with funds for 201 employees.

“In addition extensive equipment was purchased and funds were provided for fifty typewriters and specially built tables, as well as a modern photographic laboratory to make bound photostat copies for a library of foraminiferal literature.”

NOTE - More than 10,000 bound photostat volumes of classic literature in foraminifera and ostracoda were eventually produced.

November 1935 – The Stephens building is condemned for a new approach to the Brooklyn Bridge.

“After a brief but rather hectic period permission was obtained to use part of the new grant for rent. Soon thereafter a lease was signed for a portion of the seventh and all of the eighth floor at 45 West 18th Street. The [personnel] quota was reduced to 130.”

August 1935 – The Works Progress Administration is created.

December 1935 – With commercial printing for the 25-volume set estimated at $150,000 or more, Ellis arranges for the Project to use government-subsdized staff and equipment to print the Catalogues in house.

September 1939 – Hitler invades Poland; France and England declare war.

September 1940 – With the ever-growing Catalogue still unfinished after four extensions, WPA declines to continue support. AMNH creates a Department of Micropaleontology with the object of housing the Catalogue work. The “Department” is required to be entirely self-supporting; it is never granted Museum funds, and Ellis and Messina never become more than honorary curators.

May 1942 – WPA officially terminates the Project and removes all equipment. Over the next eight months Ellis and Messina and one assistant, using borrowed equipment, complete printing of the 29-volume Catalogue and send it out to more than a hundred subscribers at $100 per set. During the following lean years Ellis and Messina, working alone, edit and print a 3-volume synonymy supplement.

August 1945 – end of World War II

November 1945 – An Advisory Board is formed, including the head of US Geological Survey, president of AAPG, and several oil company chief geologists, to arrange donations that revive the Department. The first annual supplement contains more than 500 new species from the East Indies found by Dutch micropaleon-tologists before the war. In 1946 Ellis becomes Chairman of the NYU Geology Department, a position he holds for the next 20 years.

July 1947 – First issue of “The Micropaleontologist” newsletter. Graduate student training is initiated in 1948, and a Living Foraminifera laboratory is established under Angelina Messina in 1950.

December 1952 – “Catalogue of Ostracoda” is launched. .

January 1954 – “Micropaleontology” succeeds the newsletter. During 1954 the Department expands, adding a spore and pollen laboratory under L. R. Wilson, who was succeeded in the next year by Harold Cousminer. The Department begins taking in consulting, initially from Carter Oil Co., and by 1959 has five staffers who are employed full time in this capacity. In 1958, the last printed copy of the original 32-volume Foram set is sold and a microfilm edition is initiated.

June 1967 – Brooks Ellis retires at age 70, and Angelina Messina takes over.

May 1968 – Publication of the “Catalogue of Index Microfossils” and “Catalogue of Larger Index Microfossils,” each in 3 volumes.

September 1970 – Angelina Messina collapses and dies of a massive heart attack whil meeeting with visiting scientists, The noted palynologist Alfred E. Traverse, an ordained Episcopal priest, performs the final rites.

The Museum takes possession of the previously independent Department, and all senior staff resign in protest, ending consulting and research programs. Tsunemasa Saito, of Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory at Columbia University, agrees to act as part time head of renamed Micropaleontology Press, which is now supported entirely by publishing revenmues.

January 1972 – With money from NSF, “Bibliography and Index of Micropaleontology” is launched. A festschrift for Saito’s professor Kyoshi Asano is the first in the “Micropaleontology Special Papers”.

January 1978 – John A. Van Couvering (UCLA and Cambridge) becomes full time Editor in Chief after Saito resigns to become head of department at his alma mater, Fukuoka University.

August 1982 – “Catalogue of Diatoms” is launched with support from Shell and Chevron oil companies.

In 1986, oil companies contribute support to establish a CDROM edition of the Ellis and Messina Catalogues, which subsequently becomes the basis for the internet edition when the micropress.org website is created in 1992.

September 11, 2001 – Islamist terrorists destroy the World Trade Center

June 30, 2003 – AMNH closes Micropaleontology Press, and releases all rights and properties to The Micropaleontology Project, Inc., an independent non-profit corporation founded by the former staff of the Museum program. The Project takes offices at 256 Fifth Avenue, and begins to explore new sources of income.

September 2004 – First issue of “Stratigraphy,” a new journal in Earth sciences, in a joint subscription with Micropaleontology. In 2006 the journal is adopted as the journal of record for the North American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature, in place of AAPG Bulletin.

June 2005 – The Catalogues exceed 200 loosleaf binders, leading to the decision to shift to online publication with printed pages as an option. (The journals are puy on yje sam,e basis as of 2009 volume year). The Catalogue pages are re-scanned at higher resolution to meet this new need.

November 2008 – Credit industry crashes in Great Recession.

September 2009 – The Project moves to space provided by Queens College of CUNY (City University of New York), to continue as an independent nonprofit publisher in association with the College.