History of the Department

Rankings–A National Academy of Sciences study showed that the department ranked first in the nation in number of Ph.D. degrees awarded during 1964-66, fourth in the period 1920-66, and second in undergraduate majors who continued for the Ph.D. degree during 1960-66. Another study ranked the department’s graduate program 13th in the nation. A 1968 survey showed that 85 Wisconsin Ph.D. Geology and Geophysics alumni then held positions on other graduate school faculties.

The structural geology mantle passed from I.W.D. Dalziel to Campbell Craddock, who had worked in the petroleum industry and had taught at Minnesota for nearly a decade. Besides ongoing investigations of Lake Superior geology, Craddock continued Antarctic research begun while at Minnesota. At Wisconsin, he also developed research programs in structural geology in Alaska and on the Arctic island of Svalbard. From 1982 to 1988, Craddock served as books editor for the Geological Society of America. In recognition of his exemplary service, he was awarded the Geological Society of America (GSA) Distinguished Service Award.

Campus anti-Vietnam War demonstrations became violent during an October 18, 1967 protest against Dow Chemical Company interviewers. Frequency of anti-war demonstrations increased and hostilities between protestors and police and National Guard troops escalated over the next three years. A pre-dawn bombing of the campus Army-Mathematics Research Center on August 24, 1970 destroyed much of Sterling Hall and killed a physics department research worker.

During this period, tear gas fumes caused the evacuation of Science Hall several times, and geology professors’ office windows were broken by rocks of varying compositions. Professor E.N. Cameron was a member (and steadfast chairman) of the important, policy-making University Committee during the most intense days of student demonstrations.

Exploration geophysics was revived when Sigmund I. Hammer joined the department upon his retirement from Gulf Research and Development Company. He was the first exploration geophysicist with extensive industrial experience to be appointed to the faculty. At Gulf, Hammer had pioneered the measurement and interpretation of gravity data. After he retired from Wisconsin, he held United Nations assignments to help develop geophysics in Bolivia and Turkey.

Arctic Ocean research
Arctic Ocean research by David L. Clark

Arctic Ocean research–Using drifting ice-island T-3, David L. Clark, in cooperation with Arthur Lachenbruch (U.S. Geological Survey) and the Office of Naval Research funding, recovered 580 sediment cores from the Arctic Ocean. The cores were studied and curated in the department. They constitute the largest collection of Arctic Ocean sediment cores extant. The marine geology of the Arctic Ocean was essentially unknown in 1967, but studies of these cores from 1969 to 1998 by 32 of Clark’s Ph.D. and M.S. students along with five post-doctoral workers are responsible for most of what is known concerning Arctic Ocean Cretaceous-Eocene and Miocene-Pleistocene sedimentation, stratigraphy, paleontology, geochemistry, and paleoclimatology. An unexpected discovery of Cambrian to Triassic conodonts in talus chips at the base of several cores from the Arctic Ocean’s Northwind Ridge, demonstrated the continental nature of that ridge. These are the only conodonts ever recovered from a deep ocean basin.

Sedimentology–With the appointment of Lloyd C. Pray in sedimentary geology, the department’s long-standing prominence in sedimentation (now called sedimentology), which dated back to W.H. Twenhofel and S.A. Tyler (1920s-30s), was enhanced and expanded. Lewis Cline’s and Robert Dott’s clastic sedimentology interests were augmented by Pray’s expertise in carbonate sedimentology.

Moon rocks–Because of his expertise with ore deposits and reflected light microscopy of opaque minerals, E.N. Cameron was invited by NASA to study the titanium-rich Fe-Ti-oxide minerals in the moon rocks. Subsequently, he joined with a team from the UW nuclear engineering department to study the feasibility of recovering helium (3He) from the moon’s surface for possible use in nuclear fusion reactors. (The helium has an affinity for ilmenite, FeTiO3.)

1968 to present date
Sea Grant Institute–A UW Sea Grant Institute was founded under a new federal program, patterned after the hundred-year-old Land Grant concept of federally-supported university research and teaching. A former faculty member and alumnus N.A. Ostenso became director of the National Sea Grant Program in 1977. Wisconsin’s claim for entry into this new program was based upon its proximity to the Great Lakes and a long history of limnological research. Several members of Geology and Geophysics have had ties to the program since its inception. J. Robert Moore was director of the campus Marine Studies Center under the Sea Grant Institute from 1968 to 1977. Then he moved to the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Alaska.

1969 to present date
Acoustical oceanography–A new specialty began in the department with the search for an airplane lost in Lake Superior. Using side-scan sonar, C.S. Clay and his students were able to identify submerged beaches, gravel beds, and glacial grooves as well as wrecks. Next they took their gear to the Arctic to map the underside of sea ice. Subsequently, a biological component of acoustical oceanography was developed in collaboration with UW zoologist John Magnuson. Clay and Magnuson showed that the then-standard technique of sparse random sampling was inadequate for studying fish populations. They demonstrated that the sampling of fish and zooplankton populations had to obey the “Nyquist sampling rule.” For intensive sampling, Clay then developed acoustical techniques for quantitative studies of fish populations. The name for the new specialty came with the publication in 1977 of the research text by C. S. Clay and H. Medwin, Acoustical Oceanography.

Metamorphic geology–Although the study of metamorphism had been pioneered at Wisconsin by Van Hise and Leith, it was distinguished as a separate specialty with the appointment of Charles V. Guidotti to the faculty. Guidotti moved to the University of Maine in 1981.

The Geology Museum
The Geology Museum

Geology Museum–Klaus Westphal joined the department as full time director of the museum. Westphal has greatly expanded the museum’s holdings, mounted special fossil collecting expeditions, created an active Friends of the Geology Museum support group, and has achieved a vigorous publicity and outreach program. His initiative has resulted in a number of substantial gifts and grants earmarked for the museum. The Geology Museum hosts 15,000 visitors and conducts 400 group tours per year.

Energy analysis–John S. Steinhart joined the faculty with unusual joint appointments in Geology, Political Science, and the Institute for Environmental Studies. Although his Ph.D. was in geophysics at the UW (see 1956 above), he initiated an entirely new program of teaching and research on energy resources from both technological and political policy points of view. His popular course on energy became an important component of the campus’s interdisciplinary environmental programs.

The Institute for Environmental Studies was established as an interdisciplinary program with participation of faculty from many departments. Geology and Geophysics has had a prominent role in several IES programs. John Steinhart chaired the Energy Analysis Program for many years; David Stephenson, David Mickelson, and Jean Bahr have each chaired the Water Resources Management Program.

Van Hise Rock
Stan Tyler at Van Hise Rock

Baraboo District–The first comprehensive guide and geologic map for the classic Baraboo District were completed by R.H. Dott, Jr. and I.W.D. Dalziel and published by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey on the occasion of the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Milwaukee. This famous area has continued to yield important insights ranging from Pleistocene glaciation to a Precambrian paleosol beneath the Baraboo Quartzite discovered by L.G. Medaris as recently as 1996.

Guadalupe mountains
Guadalupe mountain

Carbonate sedimentology of the Guadalupe Mountains–L.C. Pray and a group of more than 20 UW students conducted long-term research over two decades on the classic Permian strata of this New Mexico-West Texas region, which has been an international mecca for sedimentary and petroleum geologists since the 1930s. Pray has been a leading participant in countless symposia and field trips to the area, and has served as adviser to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, for which he received an appreciative commendation from the Park Service.