Van Hise, Charles Richard

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(b Fulton, Wisconsin 29 May 1857; d, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 19 NOvember 1918)


A pioneer in the use of the petrographic microscope as a tool for analyzing crystalline rocks and in the application of quantitative methods to the study of geologic phenomena, Van Hise established general principles-still valid a half century later–for deciphering the complexities of Precambrain rocks and understanding the processes of metamorphism. He began his field studies in the Lake Superior region as a geologist of the Wisconsin Geological Survey before 1879, and continued them as a member of the faculty of the department of geology at the University of Wisconsin, where he was an instructor (1879–1883), assistant professor (1883–1886), and professor (1886–1903). His studies were soon extended throughout much of North America under the auspices of the U.S. Geological Survey, by which he was also employed as an assistant geologist (1883–1888), geologist in charge of Lake Superior Divisions (1888–1900), geologist in charge of Division of pre-Cambrian and Metamophic Geology (1900–1918).

Van Hise continued his research for several years after he became president of the University of Wisconsin in 1903, but he found it necessary before long to devote his time almost exclusively to administrative responsibilities, which he carried forward with great distinction, and to public affairs.

Early in his careers, Van Hise was concerned primarily with mapping ore-bearing formations and determining their structure in order to facilitate mining operations. This soon led him to the enunciation of basic theories concerning ore-deposition and Precambrian history, most of which have been supported by the work of later geologists. His “Principles of North American Pre-Cambrian Geology” (1896) and “Treatise on Metamorphism” (1904) are classics of geologic literature, still useful today. Notable also is the leadership he displayed in the development of a valid rationale for the conservation of natural resources and the wise of metalliferous ores for human welfare.


I. Oringinal Works. Published works by Van Hise include “Crstalline Rocks of the Wisconsin Valley,” in Geology of Wisconsin, 4 (1882), 627–741, written with R.D. Irving; “The Pre-Cambrain Rocks of the Black Hills,” in Bulletin of the Geological Society of America. 1 (1890), 203–244;“The penokee Iron-Bearing Series of Michigan and Wisconsin,” in Monographs of the U.S. Geological Survey, no. 19 (1892), 1–534, written with R. D.Irving; “Principles of North American Pre-Cambrian Geology,” in Report of the United States Geological Survey no. 16 (1896), pt. 1, 573–874; “The Marquette Iron-Bearing District of Michigan,” Monographs of the U.S. Geological Survey no 28 (1897), 1–608, written with W.S. Bayley and H. L.Smyth; “Metamorphism of Rocks and Rock Flowage,” in Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 9 (1898), 269–328; “The Iron-Ore Depsosits of the Lake Superior Region,” in Report of the United States Geological Survey no. 21 (1899–1900), pt. 3 (1901), 305–434; “A Treatise on Metamorphism, in Monographs of the U.S. Geological Survey, no. 47 (1904), 1–1286;”Pre-Cambrian Geology of North America,“in Bulletin ofthe United States Geological Survey no. 360 (1909). 1–939. written with C.K. Leith; The Conservation of Natural Resources in the United States (New York, 1910); and “The Influence of Applied Geology and the Mining Industry Upon the Economic Development of the World,” in Compte-Rendu, Internatioal Geological Congress, XI (1912), 259–261.

II. Secondary Litearture. Biographies of Van Hise ar T.C.Chamberlin“Biographical Memoir of Charles Richard Van Hise, 1857-1918,” in Memoris of the National Academy of Science, 17 (1924), 143–151, including a bibliography of eighty four titles; and C.K. Leith, “Memorial of Charles Richard Van Hise,” in Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 31 (1920), 100–110, including a bibliography of fifty-nine titles.

Kirtley F. Mather

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Van Hise, Charles Richard

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