Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Nichols, Robert L., 1904-1995


Robert L. Nichols (1904-1995), A1926, H1978, was a noted explorer and geologist who served on the Tufts faculty for forty-five years. His discoveries led to the naming of the Tufts Pass in Antarctica and the Tufts Elv in Greenland.

Nichols received his bachelor's degree from Tufts in 1926 before moving on to study at Harvard, where he received an M.A. in 1930 and a Ph. D. in 1940. While studying at Harvard, Nichols began his teaching career at Tufts. He served as a lecturer in the Department of Geology from 1929 to 1936, when he was named assistant professor. Nichols was named chair of the department in 1940, and was promoted to full professor in 1946.

Nichols is most famous for his contributions to research in geologic history in Antarctica and Greenland. He participated in seventeen different expeditions during the course of his life, including five expeditions to Antarctica. In the early 1940s, Nichols discovered a valley and glacier formation in Antarctica, and named it the Tufts Pass in honor of his alma mater. On a similar expedition, Nichols was forced to survive on seal meat for twenty-eight days, after bad weather prevented planes from making food drops for him. In the late 1940s and the early 1960s, Nichols made expeditions to unexplored northern Greenland. The Danish government honored his discoveries in Greenland by naming a river after Tufts in the area Nichols explored. In 1963, Nichols and some of his students were filmed descending into the Grand Canyon. The program was later broadcast on ABC's "Meet the Professor."

During his lifetime, Nichols was a member of numerous geological organizations, including the American Geographical Society, the Geological Society of America, the Royal Geographic Society, and the Explorer's Club. He received honorary degrees from both Tufts University and the University of Kentucky, and was a recipient of the Tufts Distinguished Service Award in 1948. In 1965, the United States Department of Defense presented him with the Antarctic Service Medal in honor of his contribution to Antarctic science, and in 1978 Nichols received the Bellinghausen-Lazarev Memorial Medal of the Academy of Science of the Soviet Union in Moscow.

After retiring from his position as Henry Bromfield Pearson Professor of Natural Sciences at Tufts in 1974, Nichols worked briefly as a lecturer at the University of Kentucky. In 1979, the Department of Geology at Tufts established the Robert L. Nichols Scholarship for students showing exceptional ability in geological fieldwork. Nichols died on February 25, 1995, of complications from Alzheimer's Disease.

Source: VF, TC 1978, TAR 1948

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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