Earth and Planetary Science
EPS Planetary Science

George Davis Louderback

George Davis Louderback (1874 - 1957)

George Davis Louderback was born on April 6, 1874, in San Francisco, the son of Davis and Frances Caroline (Smith) Louderback. He graduated from Boy's High School (now Lowell) in San Francisco in 1892 and then entered the University of California, from which he received the degree of A.B. in 1896 and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1899. Dr. Louderback married Clara Augusta Henry on October 3, 1899. His classmate in the University, she was a devoted wife and inspiring companion throughout his life. Louderback's first teaching position was as Assistant in Minerology in the University of California from 1897 to 1900. He then taught at the University of Nevada from 1900 to 1906 and also was Research Assistant of the Carnegie Institution, 1903-1905. In 1906 Louderback returned to the Berkeley campus as Assistant Professor of Geology. He became Associate Professor in 1907 and Professor in 1917. From 1920 to 1922 and again from 1930 to 1939 Professor Louderback was Dean of the College of Letters and Science.

While at the University of Nevada, Professor Louderback began studies of the structure of the Great Basin, particularly of the Basin ranges. He also investigated the gypsum deposits of Nevada and the Mesozoic formations of southern Oregon. Shortly after his return to Berkeley he identified, described, and named the gem Benitoite and discussed its mode of occurrence; he also named and described the associated new mineral Joaquinite. This contribution is considered one of the finest descriptions of a new mineral ever published. He also wrote a paper on the relation of radioactivity to vulcanism, and undertook a study of the glaucophane and associated schists of the Coast Ranges. He also cooperated in the study of the effects of the earthquake of 1906. Subsequently he began an intensive stratigraphic and structural study of Mount Diablo which continued through several years. In 1913 he published an important memoir on the Monterey Series in California. During this period of research he began a study of sedimentation in San Francisco Bay which engaged his attention intermittently throughout his life.

From 1914-1916 Louderback headed an expedition into the interior of China to investigate the possibilities of the occurrence of petroleum in that region, initially for private interests but subsequently under a commission from the Chinese government, and in 1916 he traveled in the Philippine Islands.

During World War I Louderback was Chairman of the Committee on Geology and Mineral Resources of the State Council of Defense and was in charge of cooperation with the United States Geological Survey, the United States Bureau of Mines, and the State Council of Defense in investigations of the occurrence of California minerals yielding metals. From 1920 to 1924 he served on the Committee on Sedimentation of the Division of Geology and Geography of the National Research Council. He also resumed his studies on the structure of the Basin Ranges in Nevada and published three notable papers. In later years he was concerned with practical problems of construction, such as the foundations of large dams. Professor Louderback's research was recognized by his election as Faculty Research Lecturer, 1940. His influence still is felt through the students he trained.

Professor Louderback was a participant in the movement after World War I which resulted in the creation of the Academic Senate and devoted his administrative ability and critical judgment on behalf of progressive University government. He served as Chairman of the Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations and also as Chairman of the Committee on Committees. Upon the creation of Northern and Southern Sections of the Senate, Professor Louderback served as Chairman of the Special Committee on Reorganization of Academic Government. When Santa Barbara College was acquired by The Regents, Professor Louderback served on the Advisory Administrative Board for the College. He was Vice-Chairman of the Northern Section of the Academic Senate in 1933-1934 and from December, 1942, to June, 1945. Professor Louderback was truly the Nestor of the Academic Senate. After his retirement in 1944, the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon him in 1946 by the University.

Professor Louderback was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and also of the Geological Society of America, in the Cordilleran Section of which he held office. He was a member of the Seismological Society of America, of which he was first Secretary and later President in 1914 and 1929-1935; of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers; of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; of the Society of Economic Geologists; of the California Academy of Sciences; of the Washington Academy of Sciences; of the Mineralogical Society of America; of the American Geophysical Union; of the American Geographical Society; of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. He was a delegate to the Pacific Science Congress, Java, 1929, and from 1935 was editor of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Professor Louderback was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity; of Theta Tau geological and mining professional fraternity; of Phi Beta Kappa; of Sigma Xi; of Tau Beta Pi; of Phi Lambda Upsilon. He belonged to the Faculty Club and was President thereof from 1939 to 1946; to the Kosmos Club; to the Berkeley City Commons Club; to the Athenian-Nile Club of Oakland; to the LeConte Geological Club; and to the Commonwealth, Engineers, Sierra, and Bohemian clubs of San Francisco.

Professor Louderback died in Berkeley on January 27, 1957, and is survived by his wife. During his long career he saw the University of California grow from an isolated small college into a statewide University, and through his wisdom and devotion contributed in large measure to that development. He was one of the founders of the scientific tradition of the University of California and the most influential statesman in academic government of his era.

To preserve his memory, interested individuals may direct contributions to graduate student fellowships in the UC Berkeley Earth & Planetary Science Department. Checks should be made out to "The Regents of the University of California" and addressed to Front Office, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, 307 McCone Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-4767.

Memorial written by N. Taliaferro, T. Buck, and V. F. Lenzen