Campbell, Ian

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(b. Bismarck, North Dakota, 17 October 1899; d. San Francisco. California, 11 February 1978)


Campbell, of Scottish ancestry, was the son of Dugald and Agnes Gilkison Campbell. He grew up first on a sheep ranch in North Dakota and then among cherry orchards in Eugene, Oregon. After attending local schools, he matriculated at the university of Oregon. His education was interrupted when he volunteered for military service in World War I as a wagoneer (361st Ambulance Company, 91st Division) from 1917 to 1919. He received the A.B. degree in 1922 and the A.M. degree in 1924. Campbell went to Northwestern University as a university fellow in 1923 and continued his graduate work in 1924 at Harvard, where he was a teaching fellow (1924–1925). He was an assistant professor of geology at Louisiana State University (1925–1928) before returning to Harvard as instructor in mineralogy and petrology (1928–1931) and receiving the Ph.D. in economic geology in 1931. On 16 September 1930 Campbell married Catherine (Kitty) Robbins Chase shortly after she received her M.A. degree in geology from Radcliffe. She received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe in micropaleontology in 1932. They had one son, Dugald. Campbell’s lifelong interest in and love for nature led him to lead an active life despite two bouts with cancer, the last of which was fatal.

Campbell was a member and/or fellow of almost every major geologic and academic organization in the United States and served as an officer in many of them. A partial list includes Geological Society of America (president. 1968), Mineralogical Society of America (president, 1962). Association of American State Geologists (president, 1965–1966), American Geological Institute (president, 1961), Branner Geologic Society (president, 1938) Le Conte Geologic Society (president, 1963–1964), American Association of Petroleum Geologists (Public Service Award, 1973), American Institute of Professional Geologists (Ben H. Parker Memorial Medal 1970), American Association for the Advancement of Science (Pacific Division president, 1957–1958). American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (Hardinge Award, 1962).

If one word can describe a person’s life, then for Ian Campbell the word must be “active.”From childhood he was always involved with many different, frequently concurrent, projects, Not long after he was discharged from military service, he embarked on a solo motorcycle journey from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, which, given the state of the nation’s highways at that time, was no mean accomplishment, In recognition of his efforts and the publicity he brought the sport of motorcycling, he received a medal from the Harley-Davidson Company. But he devoted most of his energy to geology and excelled in the roles of teacher and scholar, state geologist, and professional geologist.

Campbell’s academic career began when he accepted a position as assistant professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology in 1931. In 1934 he became an associate professor and a research associate of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.; three years later he led the Carnegie-Caltech geological expedition on a pioneering trip through the Grand Canyon, While associated with Caltech, Campbell was known as a very competent teacher who demanded and received excellence from his students, requiring them to think beyond simple facts and consider their meaning. He insisted that his students master the fundamentals and techniques of geology, especially when it came to the petrographic microscope and crystallography. At Caltech he is said to have given a young Ph.D. student a sample for identification that turned out to be a kidney stone from his Norwegian elkhound.

Campbell’s administrative career began at Caltech, where he served as associate chairman, had a brief tenure as acting chairman, and in 1952 became the executive officer of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, He was promoted to professor of petrology in 1946, but he left the academic world and Pasadena in 1959 to become state mineralogist and chief of the State Division of Mines of California. Two years later, after some political persuasion on his part, the title became state geologist and chief of the Division of Mines and Geology. At his departure from Caltech, Campbell retained the courtesy title of research associate, and he was granted the rank of professor emeritus in 1970 after his formal retirement in 1969.

His state position demanded all of Campbell’s administrative and diplomatic skills; one of his greatest achievements was the compromise he was able to negotiate on the legislation that provides for registration of geologists in California. After the Board for Registration of Geologists was organized. Campbell served as a member (1969–1978) and as its president 11972–1974), While he was state geologist, his professionalism and stature as a geologist enhanced the reputation of the Division of Mines and Geology within the state and nationally. He started the state program in’ geological hazards’shortly after his arrival, beginning with a small effort in mapping geologic hazards in the Los Angeles urban area and then moving to other regions of the state. Campbell saw the need to expand the division’s efforts beyond the traditional areas of geology. and he encouraged the early programs in geophysics and geochemistry. One result of this is the state Bouguer anomaly map on a 1:250, 000 scale geologic map base.

Campbell left the division, from September 1966 to February 1967, to serve as director of the State Department of Conservation, then ret timed to complete his career in state government with the Division of Mines and Geology. During the later years with the division he turned some of his energies to the California Academy of Science and even moved his office there after his retirement in 1969. He was a member of its board of trustees from 1960 to 1976, secretary from 1970 lo 1971, and president from 1971 to 1976.

Campbell’s influence ranged far and wide. As a teacher he helped train and nurture a generation of Caltech geologists, at the Mines Division he helped to bring the division to the forefront among state geological departments, as a professional geologist he was a leading authority on nonmetallic mineral deposits (especially magnesium sources), and he acted as a consultant to numerous mining. oil, and utility companies.

To honor his memory, Caltech established a graduate fellowship in petrology, and the American Geological Institute set up the Ian Campbell Scholarship Fund and the Ian Campbell Medal, to be awarded “in recognition of singular performance in and contribution to the profession of geology.”


I. Original Works. Among Campbells numerous papers on I he Archean of the Grand Canyon area is “Types of Pegmatites in the Arehean at Grand Can}on. Arizona.” in American Mineralogist. 22 (1937), 436–445. on economic mineral deposits, see “Magnesium Metasomatism in Dolomite from Lucerne Valley. California”. in International Geologic Congress, 18th, Great Britain, Report, pt. 3 (London, 1950). 118–124, His reports while state geologist include “Preparedness for Disaster—The Geologist’s Role,” in California Division of Mines and Geology Mineral Information Service, 18 (1965), 51–53. A more philosophical writing after retirement is “Search for the Philosopher’s Stone,” in The Professional Geologist. 9 . supp. (December 1972), 101–104,

II. Secondary Literature. Richard H. Jahns, “Memorial to Ian Campbell, 1899–1978,” in Geological Society of America. Memorials, 12 (1982), with selected bibliography; and Gordon B. Oakeshott, “Ian Campbell (1899–1978),” in Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. 63 (1979), 1977–1979.

William R. Brice

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