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Papers of John Haller, 1944-1984


John Haller (1927-1984), a professor of geology at Harvard University (1965-1984), was an authority on structural geology, tectonics, and regional geology. He was a member of the Danish East Greenland Expeditions between 1949 and 1963 and is recognized for his compilatory work on the Geology of the East Greenland Caledonides.


  • Creation: 1944-1984


Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the University Archives is required for access to the Papers of John Haller. Please consult the reference staff for further details. Additional restrictions may apply.


19.65 cubic feet (34 document boxes, 6 portfolio boxes, 2 flat file boxes, 5 map boxes, 3 portfolio folders, 1 map roll, 2 digital images)

The Papers of John Haller largely document Haller's geological expeditions and his career as Professor of Geology at Harvard University and the University of Basel. These papers include Haller's academic and personal correspondence with individuals and institutions, research files pertaining to Haller's East Greenland research expeditions, field work in Scotland and Spain, and teaching materials used by Haller in courses taught at Harvard University and the University of Basel. A small quantity of writings (including unpublished manuscripts), lectures, and paintings done by Haller are also included in these papers.

These papers contain little information about Haller's personal life, but his artwork reflects his skill as an artist.

These papers include material written in English, French, German, and Danish.

Biographical Essay


John Haller (1927-1984), a professor of geology at Harvard University (1965-1984), was an authority on structural geology, tectonics, and regional geology. He was a member of the Danish East Greenland Expeditions between 1949 and 1963 and is recognized for his compilatory work on the Geology of the East Greenland Caledonides.

Early Life and Career

John Haller was born on March 6, 1927, in Basel, Switzerland to Hans Haller (b. 1894) and Frieda (Meyer) Haller. He received his secondary education at the Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Gymnasium in Basel, graduating in 1946. Having been introduced to skiing and hiking in the Alps, he became an expert. He eventually joined the ski team of the University and the Academic Alpine Club. Intrigued by rock formations, Haller decided to become a geologist. In 1952, John Haller earned a Ph.D. degree in Mineralogy Petrography from the University of Basel. His thesis dealt with the Geologie und Petrographie von West-Andrée Land und Ost-Fraenkels Land. Field work had been carried out while Haller was a member of the Danish East Greenland Expeditions from 1949 to 1951, under the leadership of Dr. Lauge Koch, a pioneer in polar exploration.

From 1952 to 1962 Haller was employed by the Ministry of Greenland as a scientist and worked as the chief geologist on the staff of Lauge Koch's East Greenland Expeditions till their cessation in 1958. He spent altogether nine summers and one winter with field activities in this vast, pristine region. Mapping was done on the ground and from the air. He became responsible for the regional map compilation of the Koch Expeditions which had accumulated an immense amount of data of the region between 72° and 76°N. Haller's experience and knowledge of the territory, gained through both detailed structural and petrological analysis of selected terrains and widespread air reconnaissance had prepared him for the task. In 1971, the Geological Map of East Greenland 72° and 76°N in 13 sheets at scale 1:250,000 was published. This, together with his Tectonic Map of East Greenland 1:500,000, his book Geology of the East Greenland Caledonides, and his Geological Map of North-East Greenland 75° and 82°N 1:100,000 constitute the definitive source material from this remote area. Between 1959 and 1969 a series of monographs appeared in the Meddelelser om Grønland, most notably Der Zentrale Komplex von NE Greenland, Part 1 and Part 2.

Harvard University

In 1957 Haller was appointed Lecturer of Petrology and Structural Geology at the University of Basel. In 1964 he visited Harvard University to teach courses in structural geology and tectonics. Shortly after, Haller joined the Harvard faculty as an Associate Professor of Geology (1965). In 1969, Haller was appointed a full Professor of Geology. In 1976 Haller was the Faculty Director of the sessions on Our Mobile Earth offered by the Harvard Alumni College. A few years later, in 1982, he became the first director of the Sierra Madre Field Camp in Wyoming for earth science students, a program sponsored jointly by the geology departments of Cornell University, Harvard University, and Yale University.

Although Haller's research focused on the geology of East Greenland for many years, between 1963 and 1972 he carried out extensive field studies in the British and Scandinavian Caledonides. He also engaged in field investigations in the Betic Cordillera (Spain) and in the North American Cordilleran, a broad mountain belt extending north from Mexico to Alaska. At Harvard, Haller continued his studies of comparative tectonics, focusing on the relationship between plutonism, regional metamorphism, and tectonic transport.

The Geological Society of Denmark recognized John Haller's "outstanding contributions, particularly to the geology of East Greenland" by awarding him the coveted Steno Medal in 1974.


In 1952 John Haller married Susanna (Weisskopf) Haller. They had two sons: Daniel (b.1957) and Patrick (b.1962).


John Haller died on May 1, 1984 at the age of 57 after an extended illness.

  1. Henriksen, Niels. Obituary, Dr. John Haller, Newsletter GGU, No. 10, June 1984.
  2. Schwarzenbach, Fritz Hans, and others. Towards New Horizons: John Haller, 1927-1984. (Zürich, Switzerland: Verlag der Fachvereine; Schweizerische Stiftung für Alpine Forschungen, 1993.)
  3. Thompson, James, B., Jr., Marland P. Billings, Charles W. Burnham, and Ulrich Petersen. John Haller. Harvard University Gazette (October 17, 1986 : 7).
  4. Thompson, James B., Jr. Memorial to John Haller, 1927-1984. Geological Society of America (June 1986 : 1-5)

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Biographical Materials
  2. Correspondence
  3. ___Correspondence with individuals
  4. ___Correspondence with institutions
  5. ___Harvard Correspondence
  6. ___Student Correspondence
  7. Research Materials
  8. ___Research Notes
  9. ___East Greenland Research Expeditions
  10. ___Field Study Notebooks
  11. Teaching Materials
  12. ___Harvard University
  13. ___University of Basel
  14. Writings
  15. Lectures
  16. Artwork
  17. Geological Maps

Acquisition Information

The Papers of John Haller were acquired through donation. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the descriptions and item lists.

The acquisitions are as follows:

  1. Accession number: 10413; 1985 May 1
  2. Accession number: 10599; 1985 October 28
  3. Accession number: 10744; 1986 June 3
  4. Accession number: 14230; 2000 September 27
  5. Accession number: 14819; 2003 June 30
  6. Accession number: 17663; 2007 July 25
  7. Accession number: 18384; 2011 September 8
  8. Accession number: 18536; 2012 August 27

Related Material

  1. Haller, John, Biographical File (HUG 300).
  2. Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about John Haller.
  3. Towards New Horizons: John Haller, 1927-1984 (HUG 84.80).

The following institutions also hold archival materials relating to Haller:

  1. Danish National Archives, Copenhagen.
  2. Geological Museum Archives, Copenhagen University.
  3. Geologenarchiv an der Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg, Germany. (D-79104)

General note

This document last updated 2016 October 14.

Processing Information

The Papers of John Haller were first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1990. They were organized largely by type of material and the distinctions between research and teaching materials were unclear. In June 2007, Dominic P. Grandinetti re-processed the material. Re-processing included integrating several small accessions into the existing collection, re-housing materials in the appropriate containers, placing documents into acid-free folders, establishing a series and subseries hierarchy, and the creation of this inventory.

Photographic negatives were scanned onto acid-free paper by the archivist and the copies were added to the collection. News clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper.

All call numbers beyond the base call number were made obsolete. Obsolete call numbers are lsited at the series and subseries level is included in this finding aid. Call number HUGBH 136.80, Towards New Horizon's: John Haller, 1927-1984, was changed to HUG 84.80. Reprints and book reviews previously designated HUGB H136.72 were integrated into Haller's papers and are included in this inventory.

Haller John. Papers of John Haller : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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