It’s seems implausible that changing one’s college major could generate a prominent place in world history and the annals of science.
But that’s what happened after Monroe, Ohio, native Lawrence A. Warner changed his major to earth sciences while attending Miami University (1).
A member of Monroe’s illustrious Warner family, Lawrence became a world-renowned geologist who “won a place in history by going to the South Pole in 1939 with Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the greatest explorer of the twentieth century.” That famous expedition led to the discovery of the southern limits of the Pacific Ocean.” (2)
The son of Clarence and Mary (Wones) Warner (3) originally set out to be an English major at Miami. But -- as fate would have it -- he was assigned a job “as a student helper for the young geology professor Bennett T. Sandefur” and soon became “captivated by earth science, which became his principal field.”(1)
He “received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami in 1937. That summer, working alone with improvised mapping methods, he completed his first geological study: a report on the geology of Versailles State Park in southeastern Indiana.” (1) Little did he know that one day his work would take him much farther away.
While working in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado Warner learned he’d been appointed as a geologist with the third U.S. Antarctic Expedition being organized by eminent explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd. “Working from Little America [the explorers’ base of operations]..., he and his colleagues evaluated much previously unexplored Antarctic terrain during the austral [southern] summers of 1939-1940 and 1940-1941.” (1)
In a written record of her memories of family life in Monroe, Warner’s mother recalled that upon learning of her son’s participation in the faraway expedition she became “upset” thinking she would not be able to hear from him. Fortunately, short-wave radio took care of that concern. (4)
In 1942 Warner received his doctorate in geology from Johns Hopkins University. He then “worked with the Alaskan Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey from 1942 to 1946, carrying on pioneering studies of geology and mineral resources in southern Alaska, and on Alaska’s Arctic slope. His field work in Earth’s two polar regions was recognized in 1946” with the Congressional Medal for Science and Exploration.” (1)