(b. Boston, Massachusetts, 3 December 1840; d. Washington, D.C., 14 May 1917)
Hague was the son of the Reverend Dr. William Hague and Mary Bowditch Moriarty. His father urged him to pursue a business career, but he entered the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale after he failed to pass the physical examination for the army at the outbreak of the Civil War. His older brother, James, studied mining engineering at Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard and he may have influenced Hague’s decision to pursue a career in geology. Hague’s professors at Yale included James D. Dana, George J. Brush, and Samuel W. Johnson, and among his fellow students were J. Willard Gibbs, Ellsworth Daggett, Clarence King, and O. C. Marsh.
After graduation (Ph.B.), Hague, again rejected by the army, went to Germany—first to Gottingen and then to Heidelberg, where he studied in R. W. Bunsen’s laboratory. He then attended the Bergakademie at Freiberg, Saxony. There he met S. F. Emmons and came under the personal guidance of Bernhardt von Cotta, author of a textbook on petrography.
In December 1866 Hague returned to Boston and shortly thereafter visited King, who invited him to join the proposed geological survey across the western cordilleras, if authorized by Congress. Hague immediately told Emmons of the planned survey and he too joined the expedition. Together these three men accomplished much for geology in their geological exploration of the fortieth parallel (1867–1872). Following preparation of the reports and atlases, Hague became government geologist for Guatemala in 1877, and in the following year went to northern China to study various mines for the Chinese government.
In 1879 the U.S. Geological Survey was established by Congress, and King was made its first director. Hague was appointed as government geologist with Joseph P. Iddings and, later, Charles D. Walcott and W. H. Weed were made assistants. From 1883 to 1889 Hague directed the survey of Yellowstone National Park and vicinity, returning again in 1893 with T. A. Jaggar, Jr., as an assistant. In subsequent visits Hague independently continued his observations on the hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone Park.
In collaboration with King and Emmons, Hague made a geological reconnaissance of a 100-mile-wide belt extending from the eastern California border to the Great Plains of Wyoming and Colorado, embracing the line of the first transcontinental railroad. This was the first of the extensive surveys which took note of the petrography of the extrusive rocks. Hague suggested that the name Laramie be used for a great series of sedimentary beds covering hundreds of square miles in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. The Laramie formation, which marks the end of the Mesozoic era, gave rise to one of the most prolonged controversies in the paleontological dating of rocks in the history of American geology. Hague also explored Mount Hood, Oregon, collecting volcanic rocks and studying the glacial phenomena. In addition, he mapped the famous silver-lead district of Eureka, Nevada.
Hague’s Yellowstone survey covered more than 3,000 square miles. He was particularly interested in the volcanoes of the Absaroka Range, which poured out enormous volumes of rhyolitic material in single eruptions. His observations on the hot springs and geysers led to a theory on the origin of the thermal waters of the Yellowstone Park region. He was a strong advocate of the preservation of the region in its natural state and took an active part in advising the government on the development of the park for public enjoyment.
Hague was married late in life (1893) to Mary Bruce Howe of New York. He received honorary degrees from Columbia University (Sc.D., 1901) and the University of Aberdeen (LL.D., 1906). He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1885) and served as its home secretary from 1901 to 1913. He also served as president of the Geological Society of America (1910) and vicepresident of the International Geological Congress on three occasions (1900, 1910, and 1913).
Hague was described as a gentleman, temperate in language and habits at all times—even with the pack mules. He had little interest in conveying his ideas to others or in influencing their opinions. Iddings, his assistant of many years, writes kindly of his liberal treatment in the matter of individual research and his interest in the work of the beginner. Like most men exploring the difficult wilderness, Hague found great beauty in nature, whether it was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone or the movements of the elk.
1. Original Works. Works by Hague include “Descriptive Geology,” Report of the Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, vol. II, Professional Papers of the Engineer Department, U.S. Army, no. 18 (Washington, D.C., 1877), written with S. F. Emmons; “Notes on the Volcanoes of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington Territory,” in American Journal of Science, 3rd ser., 26 (1883), 222–235, written with J. P. Iddings ; “Notes on the Volcanic Rocks of the Great Basin,” ibid., 27 (1884), 453–463, written with J. P. Iddings; “Geological History of the Yellowstone National Park,” in Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, 16 (1888), 783–803; Geology of the Eureka District, Nevada, U.S. Geological Survey Monograph no. 20 (Washington, D.C., 1892); and Yellowstone National Park Folio, Wyoming; General Description, Geological Atlas of the U.S., folio no. 30 (Washington, D.C., 1896).
See also “The Age of the Igneous Rocks of the Yellowstone National Park,” in American Journal of Science, 4th ser., 1 (1896), 445–457; Absaroka Folio, Wyoming, Geological Atlas of the U.S., folio no. 52 (1899); “Early Tertiary Volcanoes of the Absaroka Range,” in Science, n. s., 9 (1899), 425–442; “Descriptive Geology of Huckleberry Mountain and Big Game Ridge, Yellowstone Park,” in Geology of Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Geological Survey monograph no. 32, pt. 2 (Washington, D.C., 1899), pp. 165–202; and “Origin of the Thermal Waters of the Yellowstone National Park,” in Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 22 (1911), 103–122.
H. S. Yoder, Jr.