Joseph Augustine Cushman was perhaps the most important foraminiferal researcher in the first half of the twentieth century. A native of Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard University (B.S.) in 1903 and began his career as a Curator with the Boston Society of Natural History. While there, he continued to study part-time for his Ph.D., which he received from Harvard in 1909. In 1904, he requested a loan of material from the U.S. National Museum (USNM) to use as a comparison with the Pleistocene specimens from Panama that he was studying. Thus began a life-long collaboration with the USNM.
In 1912, Dr. Cushman began an association with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which continued throughout most of his career. He first used foraminifera to correlate sands in artesian wells for the USGS, a technique which developed into the correlation of subsurface strata penetrated in wells drilled for oil. In 1923, he resigned from the Boston Society of Natural History and built a laboratory behind his house in Sharon, Massachusetts. From this private laboratory, Dr. Cushman consulted for oil companies, taught classes in micropaleontology to both undergraduate and graduate students, collaborated with an international array of visiting scientists, and conducted his own research with a staff of assistants. He built up one of the world’s pre-eminent collections of foraminifera, authored the widely used text book, “Foraminifera, Their Classification and Economic Use”, and published 554 scholarly publications, including 14 that were published posthumously. Many of his papers were published in the Contributions from the Cushman Laboratory for Foraminiferal Research, a journal he established in 1925.
Upon his death in 1949, the collections and library were bequeathed to the National Museum of Natural History (part of the Smithsonian Institution) where they remain a major resource for researchers around the world.
The ‘Contributions’ series was continued with a slight name change in 1950, to the Contributions from the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research, coinciding with the creation of the Cushman Foundation. In 1970, the name of the series was changed again to the Journal of Foraminiferal Research.