Thomas Wayland Vaughan, a prominent geologist, paleontologist, oceanographer, was born in Jonesville, Texas of a long and distinguished family. He was an authority on marine sediments, fossil and recent corals, and American Tertiary stratigraphy
He entered Tulane University in 1885 graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in what Tulane at that time called "The Physical Science Course." From 1889-1892 Vaughan was an instructor in physics and chemistry at Mount Lebanon, Louisiana. While he was at Mount Lebanon he studied the local flora and fauna and started collecting fossils. Feeling that he was weak in biology, he returned to college. He attended Harvard graduating with a B.A. in 1893. In 1894 he received a M.A., and in 1903, a PhD.
From 1894 to 1903 Wayland Vaughan served the U. S. Geological Survey as assistant geologist. And in 1897 he was a delegate to the International Geological Congress in Russia and while in Europe he studied paleontology under Dr. Ritter J. A. van Zittel.
Between 1901 and 1923 Vaughan took part in geological investigations in two large areas, and published more than 100 papers as a result of his findings. The first area included the West Indies and the Panama Canal Zone. The second area included the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast Plains from Cape Cod to the Mexican Border. Then, at the age of fifty-four, Dr. Vaughan turned to another major field of endeavor—the study of the Larger Foraminifera. The final major contribution he made to science was in the field of oceanography. He culminated his work in oceanography by serving for twelve years as Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla, California. He developed the Institution to its present position as an outstanding center of oceanographic research and graduate study.
In 1936 Dr. Vaughan retired from Scripps Institution and resumed his paleontological studies at the U. S. National Museum in Washington. Here he pursued his systematic research on the Larger Foraminifera and other studies. His blindness 1947 ended his own scientific work, but he retained until his death in 1952, a keen interest in the scientific work of others.