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date: 29 February 2024

The Institute of Geology of Mexico and Its Precedents: History and Legacylocked

The Institute of Geology of Mexico and Its Precedents: History and Legacylocked

  • Lucero Morelos RodríguezLucero Morelos RodríguezInstituto de Geología UNAM


In 2019, the Institute of Geology celebrated its ninetieth anniversary as part of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The main establishment in Mexico for the teaching, research, and dissemination of the geological sciences, it is an institution with a long history and a great scientific legacy. It dates back to the 19th century, since it is the heir to the Geological Institute of Mexico (1888), the first institute in the Mexican republic to carry out research in the geological sciences and to study the country’s territory from three points of view: scientific, technical, and industrial. It was conceived by the mining engineer Antonio del Castillo (1820–1895) to meet the need to scientifically explore the country’s latent mineral wealth, for which reason its functions included: mapping regions whose lithology and resources were unknown, providing specialized services to the public—the analysis and classification of water, rocks, land, fossils, minerals, and oil—and creating a geological and paleontological museum for the nation.

From 1888 to 1917, the institution was part of the Ministry of Development, Colonization, Industry, and Commerce (Ministerio de Fomento, Colonización, Industria y Comercio). In 1917, the Venustiano Carranza administration promulgated a new constitution, reformed governmental administration, and created the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Labor (Secretaría de Industria, Comercio y Trabajo), which was responsible for all questions related to industries such as mining and oil. Although it lapsed somewhat between 1917 and 1929, during the armed conflict of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), the Institute of Geology of Mexico was assigned to the Department of Geological Studies and Explorations, with the task of carrying out applied science through the study of new and old mining areas and the location of aquifers.

A new scenario emerged in 1929 when the administration of President Emilio Portes Gil enacted the Organic Law of the National University, granting the latter university autonomy, which also allowed institutions of a scientific nature such as the National Astronomical Observatory, the National Library, the Department of Biological Studies, and the National Geological Institute to carry out research as one of their substantive activities. On November 16, 1929, the former Department of Geological Studies and Explorations was incorporated in the most important scholarly institution of Mexico under the name of the Institute of Geology.


  • History of Mexico
  • Science, Technology, and Health

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