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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Willis H. Barris

[13]WILLIS H. BARRIS, clergyman and scientist, was a native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, where he was born July 9, 1821. He entered Alleghany College at Meadville in 1835 and graduating, took a course of civil engineering, which he completed in 1841. From his youth Mr. Harris was a student of natural science, especially geology, in which later he prosecuted original studies. At the age of twenty-one he entered the General Theological Seminary in New York City from which he was graduated in 1850, being ordained in 1852. Upon the advice of Bishop Lee, Mr. Barris came to Iowa in 1855, becoming rector of Trinity church at Iowa City. While there he continued his work in geology and became a member of the Board of Regents of the University in 1858. The following year he became rector of Christ's church at Burlington and “contributed largely to the creation of that scientific interest with which Burlington limestone is now regarded.” Portions of his collection went to the British Museum, but a larger part went to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge, and a large number of crinoid forms described by Wachsmuth, Springer and others were first discovered by Dr. Barris. In 1866 he became professor of ecclesiastical history (including Greek and Hebrew) in the Theological Department of Griswold College at Davenport, the chair having been created and endowed for his occupancy. Dr. Barris occupied the chair for twenty-five years, being above all else a churchman. He was, however, a leading spirit in all scientific research and while at Davenport published many valuable articles, mainly in the Geological Reports of Illinois. He was largely instrumental in founding the Davenport Academy of Sciences, served on its board of trustees and was its president, 1876, and later was curator and corresponding secretary for many years. He was a member of many scientific societies and in 1869 Griswold College conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Dr. Barris died at his home in Davenport June 10, 1901, having been a citizen of Iowa for forty-six years.