Ruth Wattis Mitchell Earth Sciences Building





The Ruth Wattis Mitchell Earth Sciences Building was named after Ruth Wattis Mitchell, dedicated on November 19 of the year 1970. Ruth Wattis Mitchell was a sculptress and also a generous donor to the university.

Her Father, Edmund Orson Wattis and his brothers founded the Utah Construction Company and built the feather route between Oakland and Salt Lake City. Later on, the Wattis brothers spearheaded the formation of Six Companies to build Hoover Dam. In honor of her father and mother, Martha Ann Bybee, Ruthis donated $1,026,000 to Stanford, also in support of her passion for Earth Sciences. Ruth Wattis Mitchell once said, “Life has been good to me, and Stanford has been good to my family.” Her husband and 4 nephews and nieces attended the university. Below is a portrait of Ruth Wattis Mitchell taken in 1937.

Architects followed the spencer design, constructing the building with concrete and glass along with the classic cardinal red tile roof

When John Casper Branner arrived at the new and just recently built Stanford University with his private geological library of merely 5,000 volumes, it’s safe to assume that he would’ve never guessed his collection would grow into a full scale and operating library for what would be one the most prestigious universities in the world. From the Geology Corner, to the 2nd floor and center of the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building, Branner’s library has indeed come a long way.

Branner’s collection of geological texts set the foundation for the establishment of The Branner Earth Science Library, which lies in the second floor of the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building. The Branner Library now holds roughly 125,000 volumes and 270,000 sheet maps.  The following guide gives guidelines and rules on the usage of material that is owned by the Branner library.

The Mitchell Earth Sciences Building also flaunts a collection of precious gems, rocks, and minerals behind a glass display. On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck and unfortunately damaged some of the gems. Now the displays have been seismically retrofitted to prevent the collection from being damaged if another earthquake were to strike Stanford.

Now, with the current Earth Sciences building not capable of keeping up with the rapid expansion of the university, talk about establishing a new earth sciences library circulates campus and plans have been created, illustrating what the new building would look like. There is only one problem; there is insufficient funding to make this idea a reality, yet

As part of the School of Earth Sciences, the building pledges “to provide students and future leaders with the tools and resources needed to create, integrate, and transform fundamental understanding of Earth Processes, use that knowledge to provide energy, water, and a safe and sustainable planet.” The School of Earth Sciences met in the 2003-04 academic year to discuss the vision, mission statement, and goals of the department. On their website, it stated that the department is committed to the principle that has guided their program since 1947: “harnessing science and engineering for the benefit of humankind.” With this in mind, it is important to not that the department is dedicated to educating the broader public on the hazards of their actions on the environment. Armed with the knowledge provided by some of the greatest geologists that have set foot on this earth, students in the School of Earth Sciences can conduct their own research to find innovative methods to conserve vital resources provided by the planet.

With an array of nationally and internationally recognized faculty, the School of Earth Sciences looks to continue hiring leaders in the field of Earth Sciences to educate the students and the public on ways to make the Earth into a healthier environment for future generations. Below is an image of a past graduate student making use of historical texts that can be found in the Branner Library.