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Examining the Remarkable Life of Miles Rock

Casey Kies poses for a photo with maps on a table in front of him

Ph.D. student Casey Kies hopes to cement in history one of Lehigh’s first graduates

For historians, it can be a challenge to empathize with historical subjects and understand their motivations and temperaments. 

But second-year history Ph.D. student Casey Kies is finding a lot to admire about Miles Rock, one of the first Lehigh graduates. The legacy of Rock, a cartographer, naturalist, civil engineer and astronomer, provides insight into geopolitics, the role of American diplomacy and questions of sovereignty and territory that emerged in the late-19th- century.

In his lifetime, Rock, Class of 1869, observed the transit of Venus while in Chile and determined longitudes and latitudes as an astronomer, but his culminating accomplishment was defining the Guatemala-Mexico boundary. In 1881, Guatemala and Mexico each claimed land on a 541-mile border of rugged terrain. Although a treaty was signed in September of 1882, a commission was formed the next year to finalize the boundary. It was Rock who led the Guatemalan Boundary Commission. 

Somewhat overlooked in history, the multifaceted Rock doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry. But Kies is ensuring Rock’s place in history as he embarks on exploring Rock’s life and legacy. Kies was introduced to Rock when family artifacts arrived at Linderman Library in 2021. 

Read the full story here.

Spotlight Recipient

Casey Kies

Ph.D. Candidate

Article By:

Wendy Greenberg