Oral History Transcript — Dr. M. King Hubbert
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M. King Hubbert; January 17, 1989
ABSTRACT: Born in Texas in 1903; influence of remote, rural environment on his upbringing and early education. Attended Weatherford Junior College until 1923; studies at University of Chicago, B.A. in 1926, M.A. in 1928, and Ph.D. (formally awarded) in 1937. Comments on courses, teachers and fellow students at Chicago, including J. Harlan Bretz and Rollin T. Chamberlin. Summer research at Amerada Petroleum Corporation (Oklahoma), Illinois State Geological Survey, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), late 1920s to early 1930s. First teaching position at Columbia University; research on ground-water motion; involvement in Technocracy Movement, 1930s. Marriage to Miriam Graddy Berry, 1938. Senior analyst on staff of Board of Economic Warfare, 1942-1943; deepening commitment to issue of natural resources. Thoughts on limited interactions between geologists and geophysicists; work in advisory committees on geophysics education, 1930s to 1940s. Theory of scale models, 1937; related research involving strength of solids. Career at Shell Oil Company and Shell Development Company, 1943-1964; directs research laboratory at Shell, perspectives on industry environment for scientific research. Lecture tours to geological, industrial, and policy groups, 1940s to 1960s; involvement in Atomic Energy Commission, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, advisory committees. Research with W. W. Rubey on overthrust faulting. Deepening interest in oil and natural gas reserves; responses from officials in petroleum corporations and federal government to his predictions of local, national, and worldwide reserves, 1950s to 1960s. Research geophysicist at USGS, 1964-1976, after retirement from Shell; studies of natural resources and conflicts over his conclusions involving other scientists at USGS. Visiting professorships at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, Berkeley, 1962-1977. Continued involvement in issue of geophysical education at American universities and in studies of natural resources, 1950s to 1970s.
Doel:In our last interview, we talked about your work at Columbia University, and we've covered a lot of it, but there are a few questions that I still wanted to return to. Did you have a good understanding of the research work that your other colleagues were doing, Charles Berkey, Roy Colony, and Armin Lobeck? Were you involved in any way in discussing their work with them? Did you have much interaction with them at all?
Hubbert:Nothing at all.
Doel:That's interesting. Because what you were doing was so different from their research?
Hubbert:Just no common ground. I used to give lectures in some of Berkey's courses.
Doel:Which course was that?
Hubbert:When he was out making money in a private consulting. He spent a good deal of his time doing that. That was one of the things that I had against Columbia. Almost all the faculty was engaged in one kind or another of outside consulting. They neglected their academic work in favor of outside renumeration from consulting.
Doel:Was the administration at Columbia aware that this was the practice?
Hubbert:Oh, I presume they were.
Doel:Did these people, your colleagues, need that for financial support, or was it a matter of choice, do you feel?
Hubbert:Oh, probably both.
Doel:I was wondering too, was there ever a regular seminar that people in the department attended?
Hubbert:Oh, they had an informal organization. I forget what it's called. It was made up of graduate students and faculty, and met in the evening. I remember I often attended, maybe once a month or so, on some assigned topic or topics. They'd have students reporting on various things. But that's the only common ground that I recall.
Doel:Did most of the faculty attend those meetings?
Hubbert:Yes. It was a kind of an all-department affair.
Doel:Was there also much after-hours socializing? Did you get together with other members of the faculty?
Hubbert:Well, I would say that the members of the faculty who were more personally compatible probably did a fair amount. I found most of the social contacts with the faculty boring. So I avoided them.
Doel:Were there any other contacts?
Hubbert:There was very little to talk about of any importance.
Doel:Were there any people at Columbia you particularly valued? That you did talk with?
Hubbert:Well, perhaps the one single individual in the faculty that I was most intimately associated with socially was a professor of political science by the name of William C. Casey. He had formerly been a professor at Chicago before he came to Columbia. Then he'd been in a college down in central Illinois. In fact he'd been thrown out of the place because he taught the students a little too much about banking. The chairman of the board of trustees was president of the local bank. So they fired him. He went to Chicago and then to Columbia.
Doel:Columbia and New York City was the area where Howard Scott was, and the Technocracy movement. You were involved in that.
Hubbert:Yes, that's right.
Doel:Do you recall the first time that you met Scott, how you became involved in it?
Hubbert:I think so. There was organized down in the Village a club called the Meeting Place. It was made up of professional writers and newspaper people, and architects. It was professional level people. And it occupied what was principally a dining room, also a minimal social lounge, over a restaurant on the ground floor called Lee Chumleys. So that they could have meals served from Lee Chumleys restaurant up there, but it was primarily just an informal social gathering place. So after I'd been there for about a year, one of the secretaries in the department invited me to go down to this place, to meet this very interesting person.
Doel:This is Howard Scott?
Hubbert:This is Howard Scott. And I did. And I was pretty much bowled over with the man's scope, knowledge, understanding. It led to a personal friendship, and then the Depression got deeper and deeper. This was about 1931, say, and I kept pushing him to try to get some of the things he was talking about on paper. It was the same kind of thing I'd been working on about mineral resources, energy resources, and so on. And the employment problem. And I should remark by way of background, that following World War I, he had been one of — practically a leader — in a small group of a dozen or so people called the Technical Alliance. I used to have their little leaflet of organization, people who were in the main line-up. I can only quote it from memory, but one of them was Tolman(?) later the dean of the graduate school of Caltech, Richard Tolman, and leader in the field of statistical mechanics. He has a big book like that on the subject.
And he was one of that group. This was largely a group that had been associated one way or the other with World War I, military production including the Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River, the big associated air reduction plant for nitrogen, and a whole bunch of those things. And so after the war, or out of this wartime association and experience, these people kind of got together and formed this little group who were asking fundamental questions about the society in general. Wouldn't it be better if we did things this way instead of this way, etc. One other thing, I'm trying to remember some of their names. Richard Tolman. I think Steinmetz was peripherally involved, at General Electric. The other man who was not in that group but associated it was Stuart Chase, the writer on economic subjects during the thirties. They had quite a number of conferences and discussions, and outside people came in and were members of these discussions groups. One of them was Veblen, and Veblen wrote a book, ENGINEERS IN A CRISIS, out of that association. There was another man I think was from Columbia and I can't remember his name now. He wrote a penetrating book called DEALING WITH CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL PROBLEMS. It was a highly read and regarded book in the late twenties and early thirties, but I can't remember the author's name at the moment or the name of the book. I think he was professor of history, maybe, at Columbia.
So it was a group of that general nature that had died out during the twenties. Then I come along and hear Scott with all his background, and I tried pushing him to try to get things going again. The Depression got deeper and deeper. Oh yes, two other people at the old Technical Alliance. One was an engineer named B. Jones who was a leading consulting engineer in New York state. He had a big consulting engineering office on Park Avenue, I think about 40th St. and Park Avenue. Another was Freddie Ackerman who was one of the top architects in New York. He had a big architectural firm. And these men came back, said, "Let's get going." The other thing was that the Depression was getting deeper and deeper and more and more desperate, with more and more people in the breadlines, including the professional people of the engineering societies and the society of architects. Yet you had this dogma of the time that, oh, by God, we couldn't have the dole. Everybody has to work for a living. So how did you work when you sold apples on the corner of 42nd St and Fifth Avenue and so on? They were doing that. It seems we couldn't have government support, that would be a dole. So the engineers were supporting their own unemployed members and the architects were doing the same with theirs. Paying them a living wage. So that's where B. Jones for the engineers and Ackerman of the architects proposed that we start using these unemployed engineers and architects to start putting some of this stuff together. And so we organized them into teams to go into the engineering society's library, the New York Public Library, and after specific information, primarily various kinds of mineral resources, and energy resources, coal, oil, iron, various metals, and then plotting these up into graphs.
Doel:Of course you'd had an interest in that from the time you'd taken Bastin's course at Chicago.
Hubbert:Yes. And then I got a man by the name of [unclear] who was a professional in industrial engineering at Columbia, and talked with him at the Faculty Club, got him interested. He provided some of the drafting facilities and space at Columbia University for some of these men to do their drafting work. Well, this went along, and it broke into the press, oh, about 1933. Somebody saw this work going on, some reporter. "What's this?" "Well, it's an energy survey." "Energy survey, what's that?" Then they saw these big charts and so on and they got all excited, and this thing broke out all over the newspapers. Then there was a terrific hue and cry developing from people who wanted to help, what could they do? Well, there was no organization and no way of utilizing their interest or their desire to help. Again, one of the fundamental things, before they could do anything, maybe was education. So then — well, Scott used the word Technocracy, that's a word he coined himself, by way of contrast with bureaucracy or plutocracy or democracy and so on, because the social structure that he was visualizing was none of the conventional things. Instead of that it was a social structure whose fundamentals were the energy and mineral resources, and whose accounting system was based on physical relations, thermodynamics and so on, rather than a monetary system, hence the contrast that his was not a plutocracy or any other conventional — there's no social system in existence that was based on the principles that he was talking about. He coined this term, Technocracy, as describing what he had in mind, as contrasted with the conventional divisions, social divisions. And well, in order to have some kind of an organizational structure, we then had a lawyer who was a friend, at one of the big law firms in New York state, draw up the papers of incorporation and get it through a judge who had to approve it as incorporated here in New York called Technocracy Incorporated. That was a structure in which we could rent an office, and have a minimum sized staff, mostly volunteers, and could also begin to do some internal work by way of organizational structure.
Doel:And this all occurred right after the publicity in the early 1930s?
Hubbert:That's right. Finally, after about four years, there was a turnaround in the press, where they began to be very critical. Then we got all kinds of hell from the press, whereas before they almost had [unclear]. And in the meantime, why, we got out various publications, regrettably nothing of great importance. What I wanted to do was to get on to the technical writing, but through the emergency of the situation, the demand of the public to have something to do, we had to try to get some kind of an organization operating. I drew up a kind of a small study course of the basics of what we were talking about, for use in these small groups that were assembling around. That was published in a small booklet without authorship. It was called "Technocracy Study Course." They also put out a little magazine which was more, I'm sorry to say, political than technical. But it did have some fairly good technical papers. All this ran on through the thirties. By the end of the thirties, I'd come to the conclusion that the thing wasn't going to accomplish anything I was interested in. The technical part of it simply wasn't going anywhere.
Doel:Was that because the leadership at that time was less interested in the technical aspects, do you think?
Hubbert:Well, this thing just moved along rather spontaneously, the circumstances. So I lost interest in it and gradually pulled out entirely. I thought I was wasting my time. So that's when I went to Washington to the Board of Economic Warfare, and put it on the shelf.
Doel:OK. I did want to ask you some questions about that. How did you get involved in that work with the Economic Resources Board? How did that come about?
Hubbert:Simply, it was a new organization, and my friends in Washington knew that I'd been tremendously interested in this problem of resources. They suggested that I get into the Board of Economic Warfare, which I did.
Doel:What was the work that you were doing on the board?
Hubbert:Oh, I was senior analyst in mineral resources. And I was working principally with mineral resources around the world of military interest.
Doel:Was that the goal of the larger group?
Hubbert:The Board of Economic Warfare was the title of it. It was principally concerned in a broad way with not just mineral but all kinds of resources as related to the propagation of the war.
Doel:Who did you report to?
Hubbert:An economist. I can't remember the name now. A professor of economics from some school or other. I never heard of him before, never seen him since.
Doel:This was full-time work for the two years that you were involved in it?
Doel:Did you have other responsibilities in addition to this?
Hubbert:Oh, I had a small group of two or three people working with me. But we just were in one of these great big bullpens about 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, with desks laid end to end. It's a very interesting experience, incidentally. Until that time, I never had anything but a private or semi-private office since I was a graduate student. I was frankly scared stiff. I could visualize myself just going nuts, trying to work under that kind of conditions. I was really apprehensive about it.
Doel:You'd known it would be that kind of working environment, before you went down?
Hubbert:Yes. When I first went down there, they didn't have any home. They were scattered around, a few people here, a few people there. Commerce Department, for example, and various other places. So my first office was an office that was intended for I think one person in the Commerce Building, and what did they have? They had four desks, one here, one here, one there, one there, each one with a telephone, but all four of them unrelated to each other. So in that case, when anybody had a telephone conversation, it wasn't that you were interested, it was an interruption, you couldn't help but listen to the conversation. And if a messenger came in say for Joe over here, you couldn't help but wonder, who is the messenger and what are they talking about, out loud, interrupting what everybody else was doing. Well, that was the kind of thing that I was apprehensive about. Finally then we moved in to one of these big temporary buildings, where you had big bullpen rooms, and a main corridor down the way here and desks practically touching each other. Just as peaceful and quiet as anything.
Doel:Is that so?
Hubbert:You knew what you were doing. You knew what your colleague over here was doing. You didn't give a damn about what they got over across the way, what they were doing ten feet away.
Hubbert:Perfectly quiet, peaceful, undisturbed atmosphere. You just ran your own little show, they ran theirs, nobody bothered each other.
Doel:Did you have much contact with outside geologists during the time that you were working together there?
Hubbert:Geological Survey people were working at the same time on military geology.
Hubbert:And that was the time, when I moved into this thing, where the people I was associated with didn't understand what I needed. I needed a drafting board and I needed to do library work, either personally or send somebody to the Library of Congress, the Geological Survey library, or whatever source of information there was, for whatever we needed. And it took some little time to get a drafting board because that was unorthodox, and necessary tools including some drafting instruments, and things of that sort. But gradually, why, we got things under control and working right smoothly.
Doel:What happened to the Board after 1943, when you decided to leave?
Hubbert:Well, it kind of went into a political tailspin. I don't remember the details now. I didn't know anybody that was running the thing. Vice President Henry Wallace was chairman of the board, you might say, overseeing this thing. They had a man by the name of Perkins from Houston. He'd written Wallace a very enthusiastic letter and Wallace was so impressed that he invited the man up and put him in charge of this Board of Economic Warfare. And another man from Houston who owned and practically was boss over at the bosses of Houston was a man by the name of Jesse Jones. Jesse Jones was the power behind — in Houston he owned half the town, he and his colleagues. He was made chairman of the board of — I'm trying to remember what they called it. Back in the Depression days, he was on the bank board of…
Doel:Part of the alphabet soup agencies?
Hubbert:Yes, that bailed out the bank in Chicago.
Doel:I believe I know which one it is. We'll check on that.
Hubbert:The same one that got bailed out again recently, I think. What do they call this thing? It dates back to the Depression days or maybe even earlier. But in the Depression days, his principal duty was bailing out bankrupt banks. Dawes. Dawes was the Secretary of the Treasury, I believe.
Hubbert:They bailed out Dawes's bank. Then he resigned and left and went back to Chicago.
Doel:That's interesting. I wasn't aware of that.
Hubbert:One of his principal activities was getting money for his bank. Well, by the time I speak of, World War II, this organization still existed but it was moribund. It had no reason for existence, except just then continuity of bureaucracy.
Doel:Had the military geology branch of the service taken over much of its former responsibilities?
Hubbert:No, they were self-contained. They were Geological Survey strictly working directly with the military. There was another large body that was more or less parallel to the Board of Economic Warfare, and that was called the War Production Board, I believe. That was a different group of business men, industrialists.
Doel:Did you have much contact with them?
Hubbert:A little bit. Not very much. But to get back to this group, Jesse Jones became the head of this organization. He had very little to do, but here were all these resources, metals, quinine, rubber, around the world, that they had field men out buying the stuff up. Somebody had to pay for it, and so this organization, Jesse Jones, was put in the position as a purchasing agent for the government. Roosevelt set Jesse Jones up in that capacity. And one very interesting little incident that came up during this period, around 1943 or thereabouts. That's when the Japanese were taking over the Malaysian Peninsula area, which was the world's principal source of rubber plantations. Well, they'd hauled out a lot of rubber before the Japanese took over, and had it stored in big warehouses here in the U.S. It was very very critical material, because we didn't have synthetic rubber then. It was about to be developed about this time.
Doel:That's right, but it wasn't yet out commercially.
Hubbert:So this episode occurred. I don't remember if it was in the newspapers or what but anyhow it was generally known what had happened around town. So there it was that one of Jesse Jones's aids came into his office one morning in a state of alarm to report the disastrous news that one of the big warehouses full of irreplaceable Malaysian rubber had burned down overnight. Jesse wasn't disturbed in the slightest. He said, "Well, it was insured, wasn't it?" He didn't lose a cent. (Laughter)
Doel:That's quite a story.
Hubbert:I regard that as a very significant incident in the contract industry, wartime or peacetime, not on money, but on oil and iron and copper and biological materials and so on. The money is an accounting system. To Jesse Jones, money was the ultimate and only reality. It didn't bother him in the slightest if they had burned down a warehouse of irreplaceable Malaysian rubber. He didn't lose a penny.
Doel:Is that one of the reasons that you decided it was time to go?
Hubbert:No. That's just an incident. Jesse Jones apparently hated the ground that this guy Perkins walked on. And so he pulled every dirty political trick and he had lots of influence on Congressmen, against Milo? Perkins. The thing got so bad, I was fairly disgusted with it. I was taking another look at the oil industry, and I got a telegram or telephone call, I don't remember which, from an old long time friend of mine, physicists, who was a research man for Shell in Houston. It said, "I'm coming to Washington with a very interesting proposition."
Doel:Coming specifically to visit you?
Hubbert:Yes. So he came with an offer of a job in Shell research. Under the circumstances, I was fed up with the situation here. So I said, OK, I'll take it. That's how I went to Shell.
Doel:OK. I want to turn to Shell in a moment, but there are a few more questions in the intervening period I wanted to ask you about first.
Doel:To return to Columbia, were there any other individuals, particularly scientists, who you felt were important, that you had associations with while you were there?
Hubbert:Not particularly. See, we were dealing with subjects that were so unorthodox that the ordinary person knew nothing about it. And so there wasn't any common ground. You could only talk about this kind of thing to people who had done some thinking of their own. If you're dealing with people, engineers say, whose sole concern was designing machinery and electronic equipment or something of that sort, and you're off on things of social importance, it's outside of their domain of interest and there is nothing you can talk about. So this kind of thing has a very special requirement, by way of discussion and conversation. And so the man with whom I was the most intimately associated at Columbia was this professor of political science, sociology. He'd been in political science at Chicago.
Hubbert:But he had a grasp of understanding of social phenomena that compared with which all the technical people at Columbia were neophytes. Or ignoramuses. Now, one man in Columbia whom I barely knew at the time but was much impressed with was a Belgian who came there in the mid-thirties, 1936 or so, by the name of M.I. Biot. He was a first-class man in applied mechanics of international stature. He was very highly regarded in the technical circles of engineering and so on at Columbia. I later ran into him at the 6th International Conference on Applied Mechanics in Paris in 1946. We were both there. Geologists from Belgium, I guess. And so we renewed and extended this slight acquaintance we'd had at Columbia. And I raised the question. We were setting up a research laboratory there, one of our provisions was that we would hire very special people from the outside as consultants.
Doel:This is the research laboratory at Shell?
Hubbert:Yes, at Shell. And we'd established this laboratory the year before, in 1945. And this was '46. So I propositioned Biot as to whether he would be interested as an outside consultant to our shop. He said he would be. I came back and reported it to my chief and he was rather negative.
Doel:Why was that, do you think?
Hubbert:Well, in the meantime Biot, who was head of department in New York, and spent most of his time in New York, went down to Shell and talked with the executive vice president who was a Belgian, rather a Dutchman but right on the border of Belgium. These two just hit it off like almost brothers. So when my boss went to New York next time, his boss was so impressed with Biot that he changed his mind right rapidly. We hired Biot as a consultant who worked with us until after I left. Then Shell was cutting down on a lot of their research shortly after that. Biot shifted over and got a similar connection with Mobil(?) research laboratory in Dallas. Later he spent most of his time back in his home territory in Belgium.
Doel:What kind of contact did you have with him at Columbia?
Hubbert:Very little. I knew who he was and I knew about him principally second hand. I talked with him a little bit. But I was working on this theory of ground water motion at the time. I remember discussing with him some aspects of that. I also wrote this theory of scale models, and gave him a copy of it. He was very pleased with that. But aside from that, we were just on different sides of the campus and there was no ordinary casual grounds for association, so I hardly saw him. But I knew who he was and I was one of his admirers.
Doel:Were there any discussions of Wegener's hypothesis at Columbia?
Hubbert:Very little. Wegener was very largely a neglected person in the field. And the reason was reasonably obvious, and that is that we had this notion of the earth as a fundamentally rigid body. This notion of floating continents was just incompatible with what we knew or possibly knew about the earth at the time. When I wrote the theory of scale models, one of the principal accomplishments in that paper was a considerable resolution of the paradox between various strong rigid rocks, and material that behaved like a soft plastic. We had the evidence of both in early geological phenomena.
Hubbert:What I showed was that it wasn't really paradoxical provided that you took a look at this thing on the basis of the scaling up and down of your various physical properties. To illustrate the point, let's just take a cube. This cube has a certain density, and so its mass is the volume times the density. Pressure at the bottom due to its weight is the weight divided by the area of the bottom and that's the square of this, the volume is the cube. So, working around the other way, suppose that we're dealing with some very large object. Something the size of oh, a few hundred meters' extent, or even a thousand kilometers.
Doel:You mentioned the state of Texas once as a good example.
Hubbert:Yes, exactly. I used that as an illustration. So, suppose that you wanted to build a table-sized model. It would behave, under its own weight, like the block the size of Texas would behave, made of the materials, of ordinary rock and so on. Well, if the density was the same, you would reduce if we used say L2 over L1 Lambda for the strength ratio, so then the volume ratio would be Lambda cubed. The area ratio would be Lambda squared. And so, if you then solve this number 2 system in terms of these fundamental ratio that we have here as to strength ratio, it turns out that you would have to decrease the strength, say, if you wanted the same strength to stress, in the model as you had in the original, if the stress is being reduced by Lambda cubed over Lambda squared, then the strength would have to be reduced by the same amount. If Lambda is one part in a million, then what you have to do here is to reduce the strength of this material a million-fold. What would that be like in ordinary materials? Well, toothpaste would be much too strong. It was this kind of thing that got us out of that bind of models made of strong solid rocks versus earth deforming drastically as if it were made of weak materials.
Doel:You mentioned that Jim Gilluly was one of the readers of the paper. How much of a contribution did he make in terms of your thinking?
Hubbert:Not very much. He read it as a critical referee what can you do better or what's wrong, weak, or needs more explanation. There was actually very little critical comment. What is was was an editorial type comment. And was properly respected.
Doel:What sort of a man was Jim Gilluly? As you knew him?
Hubbert:He was a very very refreshing person. He was a very outgoing, action-oriented Irishman, not a fat Irishman, but a lean Irishman (unclear). He'd grown up at the University — either the University of Washington or what do you call that, Spokane? I don't know. It may have been Spokane. He got his bachelor's degree there. I think he then maybe went to the University of Washington in Seattle, because one of his professors was later the head of the mathematics department at the original Caltech. He was a very highly regarded mathematician at Caltech. In his later years he wrote three or four books on various aspects of the history of mathematics. Very very informative books. He was an Englishman or Scotsman, I don't remember which.
Doel:Was that E.T. Bell?
Hubbert:Yes. E.T. Bell, right. One of his books was a little book called WHAT IS TRUTH?
Doel:Did you read that at the time?
Doel:Was there much reaction among geologists to the scale models paper, immediate reaction?
Doel:Did they accept that fairly quickly?
Hubbert:It was one of my more honored papers. Spontaneous immediate acceptance. Never any argument about it. I've often written papers that took 20 or 30 years to reach such status. In fact, that committee that I was on, I.C. somebody, about a year before I came on, in the Minutes of the preceding year, indicated that among the things that had suggested them was a theory of scale models, in structure of geology. So when we got through with this term that I was on, two of the people on the committee, one was Daly of Harvard and the other was more or less a Daly student, Francis Birch, in physics. Both of them were working very close together and they had this little group of people, graduate students and so on, who grew up under them, working on these properties of rocks and what not for several years. Francis Birch was one of them. David Griggs was another. In the bull session of this committee, after hours, I was in a conversation with Daly and whoever else was around. I told this little story of having seen these models of Hans Cloos in 1933.
Doel:Right, in Washington.
Hubbert:And I'd gone back to my hotel room and did a little bit of theoretical work on it. I had concluded that what Cloos did was approximately correct. It surprised me at the time. Well, Daly was fired up right away over this remark.
Doel:He hadn't seen the demonstration by Cloos?
Hubbert:Oh, he knew about it, yes. But he didn't know my interest. So I mentioned the work that I did know about by another Dutchman who had done some scale model work, some work on turbidity currents, ocean currents and so on. He gave me references to this man's work which I did know about before. Then when the committee got through its work and was winding up, the question came as to who would do what. Francis Birch said he'd handle this immediate problem on a handbook of rock properties. I said, "Well, I'll take on this problem of scale models." That was the time when David Griggs was about to do a job, a laboratory model job, of hand-cranked cylinders and floating overburden, folding, the various ways where the stresses were being applied to the floating crust, so to speak, by convection currents in the subsurface. Well, Griggs was holding off until I wrote this paper. And when I wrote the paper, then he went ahead and did his job, and it was a very remarkable piece of work. It would be much more favorably received now than it was then, because the drifting continents and what-not are very much in confirmatory. Griggs's work was more confirmatory than it was considered to be at that time.
Doel:Was Griggs deeply interested in the Wegener hypothesis? Do you remember that?
Hubbert:Well, these things were all in the air. Daly was a very original, provocative, thoughtful man, and he shed off on his students and associates his own musings. So Griggs did this little paper, and I remember he gave it at the forthcoming Geological Society meeting. He had a motion picture showing these things running, and one of them turning, and the other one stationary, how this thing built up one way, both of them turning, and a whole series of combinations. Well, after he'd read the paper, one of the old timers in geology, a very influential person, was a Scotsman by the name of Andrew Lawson. He had been the czar of the geology department at Berkeley most of his life, after the 1930's. He was a tough-minded old gentleman, and he got up after Griggs's paper, and said, "Thank God —"…
Doel:This was his comment on David Grigg's paper?
Hubbert:Yes. The word was that "I'm not that"
Doel:It's a particular word?
Hubbert:Yes, the word was very appropriate.
Doel:When we get the transcript back, we can insert it.
Hubbert:Yes, OK. "Thank God I'm not —" well, naive. There's a better word, but the idea was the same.
Doel:He was deeply critical of Griggs's presentation, then?
Doel:Do you recall the reaction of other people who were there?
Hubbert:I think that the attitude in general was one of open-mindedness. But this old gentleman, Andy Lawson — the missing word there was exactly right to express what he had in mind. It wasn't stupid, it wasn't naive. Credulous, of a credulous nature.
Doel:Don't trouble yourself with that. Finally, was there anybody at all at Columbia with whom you could discuss the possibility of enhancing physics during the time that you were there?
Hubbert:Well, that whole operation there, as I say, the geology department at Columbia, was a very tightly self-contained little enclave. The head of the department was a man by the name of Charles Peter Berkey, who superficially was a nice, kindly guy and a gentleman. Actually, behind that facade, he was… again the right word skips me. But he was anything but a kindly fatherly grandfatherly person.
Hubbert:It was only this facade. He was actually a very autocratic person. And what he had been, in fact it's what I came by, he'd been a long time secretary of the Geological Society of America. He practically owned the Geological Society of America.
Doel:You mean in terms of setting their program?
Hubbert:He was the editor, among other things, of their BULLETIN. He manipulated its internal affairs considerably and so on. And he had arranged in a deal [unclear] what had been residential buildings, in a neighboring block that he bought. He got one of those as headquarters for the Geological Society. And about that time there was a man by the name of Penrose who had made a pile of money in mining. Penrose gave them I think about six million dollars.
Doel:That was one of the most major endowments for geology.
Hubbert:A very major endowment. Berkey continued on in this capacity for oh, four or five years, maybe. Then he got an assistant secretary, who was training really to take over.
Doel:Which man was this?
Hubbert:Henry Aldrich. But poor Aldrich was just beaten down. He was treated like an office boy. Berkey dominated everything. So it wasn't till Berkey retired — and he only retired because of illness, I believe — did Henry Aldrich take over and run the thing from there on out. Berkey was an autocrat. He ran the geology department autocratically the same way. In most of the staff he built up, it was his gang, you might say. So with regard to geophysics, they didn't have any more idea than a jack rabbit of what geophysics really was about. All they wanted was to teach the barest little bit about how to run a magnetometer and what it did, and torsion balance, and a few things of that sort. The whole thing was so damned superficial. What he wanted was utterly ridiculous.
Doel:Did he exercise a strong influence on what other department members were doing, field geology or petrology?
Hubbert:Oh, very much so. All the young men who came up got a [unclear] also. They hired a whole bunch of their students. What you had here was a whole group of yes men. And Colony, for example, was a man that Berkey hired out of Cooper Union, working up some lectures there. Colony was a teacher of chemistry in the place, and Colony got interested in this lecture that Berkey had given on the chemistry of rocks. He expressed an interest in getting into Columbia and Berkey hired him. He became Berkey's number 2 man in petrology. So with one exception, the one senior professor who was not a Berkey student, was Dr. C.W. Johnson. C.W. Johnson was a thorn in Berkey's side, and Berkey couldn't do anything about it, and Berkey hated it.
Doel:What was Johnson's research interest?
Hubbert:Geomorphology. Johnson actually was the most competent scientist in the department. But again, he operated as an outsider, and he was a very close friend of Nicholas Murray Butler.
Doel:Oh, really? That helped.
Hubbert:They couldn't do anything about him.
Doel:That's interesting. Yes.
Hubbert:But Johnson was intellectually demanding and critical so the best graduate students in the department were Johnson's students.
Doel:How well was the department in general held by other departments of geology? What kind of reputation did it have?
Hubbert:I really don't know. But I didn't know people in other departments well enough at the time.
Doel:Right. You mentioned Berkey's influence on the GSA. Did he also have strong influence in determining what kinds of research projects the Penrose Fund would take on during his term?
Hubbert:Yes. I'll give you one illustration. There was work going on with the Coastal Geodetic Survey mapping these submarine canyons, by acoustical mapping of soundings.
Doel:Right. This is during the 1930s?
Hubbert:The 1930's. And there was a man who was involved in this on the interpretive side, who was a well known geologist, by the name of Paul Smith. He was working with one of the engineers of the Coast Survey. I remember when this geologist came up to see Berkey about the possibility of getting some money for this project. The conversation went on. Anyway, I was in on part of it. It was just kind of casual. And I remember Berkey taking it right over, he says, "OK, so and so," whatever the man's name was, " yes, I'll give you so and so much money." No committee, no nothing. "I'll give it to you."
Doel:As if they were his funds.
Hubbert:Yes. That little incident is very characteristic.
Doel:Was there in fact a committee?
Doel:It was simply
Hubbert:— Berkey simply. "I'll do it."
Doel:OK. That's fascinating. There were also funds available within Columbia University for research. Were you ever given a grant from Columbia to do your own work?
Hubbert:I think I got $250 once.
Doel:Was that a small amount at the time, or large?
Hubbert:It probably was small. But when I first went there, I wanted to get going on this broader subject of geophysics. And my course was based on those premises. Till Berkey reports one day, "Well, now, X Oil Co. has got some torsion balances they're not using any more, and we can buy one for $2500" or something of the sort. "Shall we get one?" I said, "Well, what would we do with it? Take the students around and say, here is a torsion balance?"
Doel:As a demonstration?
As far as the theory goes, I don't need the torsion balance for the theory. If it's a matter of using it, why, you can only get 22 observations a day with this thing. Why you'd go out and do field work with this thing, I don't know. So why spend $2500? Another thing. "It would be great if Columbia University had a seismograph. We could call up the newspapers and say, at Columbia University we got an earthquake on our seismograph. Or we could take students around and administrators and say, here's the Columbia University seismograph, it traces earthquakes." That kind of thing. Now, we're right on Amsterdam Avenue, with big heavy traffic, automobiles and trucks going by all day long. The thing would be going like that, as far as the seismograph was concerned. Not only that, but there was a big seismic station ten miles away at Fordham University, fairly elaborate. So why should we have a seismograph? In the first place, the thing wouldn't work. Secondly, we have no use for it. It isn't the right location. So I didn't go for that. What I really wanted was a little shop where I could build equipment. I finally inherited one that somebody or other had there as a kind of a unofficial friend of somebody — they gave him a little office shop in this building.
When he died and I took over the little shop and all the equipment. Again, as far as office was concerned, I had an office, but I always had an office mate of some kind, sometimes a graduate student. Oh yes. Another thing I was doing was developing the course in structural geology. There I ran into a problem that I hadn't anticipated. The structural geology that I was familiar with, like the Lake Superior region, Wisconsin, Minnesota and so on, have very tightly folded rocks and cut off, truncated by erosion and so on. But not much metamorphosed. The rocks in New York city were very highly metamorphosed rocks, and so you've got three practical series, the oldest rocks are Fordham Gneiss which is a granite gneiss. Overlying that is marble, and overlying that was a schist. This schist used to be a shale but it is now so thoroughly micaceous you can't even see original bedding in it any more. This kind of highly metamorphosed rocks I was very unfamiliar with, and the relations of structural geology that I was familiar with just didn't apply here at all. So later on, I went with one of the other professors of paleontology at Columbia for a field course up in the Catskill region, and a dozen students or so. I went with him on this field course.
Doel:Do you recall who this was?
Hubbert:Corielle. Well, that was very informative, because these were glacial rocks. There was at least one place where there was an overthrust of fallen paleozoic rocks, but these rocks were essentially unmetamorphosed. They contained fossils so that you could identify every outcrop practically by its fossils. Then there were thrust faults where there were repeated rocks and so forth, cross-sections. That was all very, very informative and useful. Across the river from New York City were the Palisades, which is this big lava flow there, or intrusion. In the middle of it is a zone, a strain of about ten or fifteen feet thick of pure olivene which has apparently settled down in the process of precipitation. I remember hearing Berkey comment one day with obvious displeasure that one of the graduate students was over poking around this olivene layer. He didn't like it worth a damn because he had written on that subject already and he didn't want anybody messing with it.
Doel:He was that autocratic?
Hubbert:Another thing about Berkey was the utter triviality of the man's interest in geological problems, and this was fairly typical. Around New York City there are the rock outcrops in Central Park. There were some up on the northern tip of Manhattan, and of course there were some limestone outcrops around the edges, and one or two isolated ones scattered around the Bronx and Queens and so on. Berkey assigned one of the graduate students the job of just going around and describing these individual isolated outcrops, because they were going to be destroyed by the building one of these days and he wanted to preserve them for science. No problem at all, just uttermost trivial sort of thing. And that was his notion of scientific investigation.
Doel:What did the graduate students think of that?
Hubbert:Well, there was one case, toward the end of my sojourn. There was a graduate student by the name of Keppel whom I didn't know. I mean, I'd seen him. I think the Journal Club is what they called this geological meeting that happened once a month, and I saw him there. Johnson by this time was chairman of the department, and Keppel had been assigned his doctor's thesis by Berkey. The assignment was of the same nature. They were building a dam on the Colorado River up the river 30 miles or so from Austin, and here was this expanse of rock that was going to be covered by this water. He wanted Keppel to go in there and map this in detail and preserve it for science before it was covered by this lake. And the student, that was his doctor's assignment. Well, it happened to be that this whole region had been mapped by the senior geologists of the Geological Survey back in the early 1900's. So when the thesis came back, Johnson looked it over, and concluded that all the student had done was to verify what the USGS had done 30 years before. And it would be very bad for the student to be accused of plagiarism and so on.
Hubbert:Well, it led to a kind of a crisis between Berkey and Johnson. Johnson was pretty adamant on his stand on the thing, and Berkey cried crocodile tears on his side. I was called in on this thing at that stage, by Johnson. Well, one thing that came out of the conversations or discussions or … there certainly was a lot of hypocrisy on the part of Berkey over this — or maybe all around the place, of the bad reputation the student would get in case that he should be accused of plagiarism. But the other thing that came out between the cracks, which seemed, the thing that was really bothering him —
Hubbert:And maybe the others too.
Hubbert:— was, how the boy's father, Dr. Keppel, would feel about it. Who Dr. Keppel was, I didn't know, and I'm not sure I know now. I think he was the head of the Carnegie Institution.
Doel:There was a Keppel at the Carnegie.
Hubbert:They were scared of him.
Hubbert:They were scared of the boy's father. Here the boy who was done in, I mean, he'd done his job he was told to do. And he was being made the pawn of this thing, he was mad about that, and it would get back to his father. So I was finally assigned the job of reading this thing over, and acting as a kind of referee on it. I did so, and wrote a memorandum. I wrote essentially a report of a judge on the bench, in which I pointed out that I had reviewed the original USGS publications, and I had read the boy's thesis. They were substantially the same, but I didn't think if this was accepted as a thesis that it would damage the boy, because I was sure that the outside geologists were plenty aware of the mechanism by which students were assigned these jobs and did them. I thought the responsibility came back to the professors, and not to the boy. Johnson read that over and his eyes twinkled.
Doel:What happened after that?
Hubbert:Well, somebody looking at it with a microscope or a magnifying glass found some little wrinkle or other that this boy in his thesis had mentioned that wasn't in the original Geological Survey. Now, he should go back and enlarge this aspect of it, suppress the other parts and enlarge this original part. Another thing about this same time which illustrates the same psychology. They came up with a proposal. There were a couple of prominent people, geologists, who had been graduate students at Columbia but had been turned down for their PhD for some reason or other. They'd gone out and distinguished themselves in spite of it. The hypocrisy in which this thing was couched here these men had suffered all these years for lack of the benefit of having a doctor's degree. It was decided that they would give each one of them a doctor's degree, gratis. The first one of the two accepted it as if he'd been done a favor. The second one told them to go to hell! The second one was at this time I believe the secretary of the AAPG, no, the AAAS. He was a principal officer of the AAAS. And he told them to go to hell, in effect. He said he needed the doctor's degree, in the early stages, when it would have been useful. But he didn't use it now, and the whole thing was a sham, or something of the sort.
Doel:That's very interesting.
Hubbert:Meyerhoff. His name was Meyerhoff. But they didn't — they couldn't do it honestly, they always had to have this subterfuge of pretending something that wasn't true. What it amounted to was that their reputation was suffering from the fact that they had not given degrees to these two men who had later gone out and distinguished themselves. So they were trying to cover up for their own past errors.
Doel:How common was it for geophysicists in the 1930s not to have gotten the doctor's degree? You were working for a time before Chicago, and Griggs didn't have one.
Hubbert:There weren't any geophysicists, no geophysics appointments. Birch, for example, was in the geology department, and working together with Bridgman. And so on. About that time, meteorology had brought in C.G. Rossby to set up a modern meteorology department at MIT. But that was entirely different. Now it's all put together under earth sciences.
Doel:But at the time it was segregated.
Hubbert:Totally separated. This little course I put on at Chicago was in the geology department. At Columbia I was in the geology department trying to teach geology to students who didn't have physics or mathematics, or very few of them did. You couldn't give anybody a degree with that kind of background. So the whole thing was a futile operation. Well, the other thing was, you had the Institute of Geophysics in Catholic University, St. Louis, under Macelwane. Macelwane was a Jesuit seismologist, a very good seismologist. You see, the Jesuit chain of schools around the world set up seismological laboratories in the twenties or maybe earlier. Apparently it suggests that they were a little bit bored with their religious observances, and they needed something to get their teeth into. Here they were, a worldwide organization in seismology. It was a world-wide thing where you made recordings all around the world. They were beautifully set up to set up a seismological network, and did. So you had the principal science of seismology in the United States at that time was with the Jesuits. You had Fordham, you had one in Cincinnati, you had St. Louis. There were a few lesser ones scattered around the country. Then they had observatories at various countries outside the US. Well, Macelwane was a graduate student at Berkeley in the geology department. He was studying seismology. And Caltech, I guess, was just starting up shortly after this.
Doel:Right, Caltech had funding from the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Hubbert:But Caltech was just starting in the twenties.
Hubbert:So Macelwane was a little earlier than that at Berkeley. Then he wrote this book in the 1930's on seismology, a very good book, theoretical book. I have it on the shelf over here (Gestures). That was a part of my rebelliousness, that there was no provision for geophysics worth a damn in geology departments. Either you had to upgrade the geology departments, or you had to have a separate institute of geophysics. And that gets around now to this question of geophysical education that you alluded to. We're right up to that and this is a good time to go into it.
Doel:I think so, because you had written the major report in 1938 critical of geology curricula at the time. There was an earlier report that you co-authored on geological education. That was 1936. In 1938 you published "The Place of Geophysics in a Geology Department."
Hubbert:Well, I don't remember an earlier paper than that. I thought that was the first one.
Doel:There's a note that you became involved in the AIME committee beginning in 1936. Is that correct?
Hubbert:Maybe. But let me take on there. By this time, I was just utterly frustrated, and fed up with the whole situation. I was doing geophysical work during the summers for the Illinois Geological Survey.
Doel:That was in Illinois, the earth resistivity project?
Hubbert:Yes, the earth resistivity work, they called it. I came through Chicago, probably about 1936, and visited Bastin, the chairman of the department. I asked him, what is Chicago doing about geophysics? And I got a reply something like this: "Well, we just don't know what to do. Now, there's a young man out at Minnesota, and we couldn't use him full time. We're trying to make arrangements with the department of physics so we'd take him half time and Department of Physics would have him half time. He could give our course in geophysics, and the rest in physics." Well, I just about went through the ceiling, for the stupid lack of understanding of what the hell it was all about. Here, they just wouldn't have time enough for this man to give more than a 2 x 4 course in the geology department. At the same time, the National Research Council was publishing a whole series of monographs on various aspects of physics and the earth. They had altogether about five or six volumes of this coming out just at that time. Different aspects of geophysics. They also had background of the journals: and The Beitrange in Geophysik in Germany, more recently Zeitschrift fur Geophysik, series on Handbuchdir Geophysik and so on.
Doel:Right. How did that get organized?
Hubbert:They weren't doing one damn thing about this, and you wouldn't know from the geology departments that it was in existence.
Doel:Why did the NRC become so involved in it?
Hubbert:I don't know. It was before my time. This was the early nineteen-twenties.
Doel:But the geology departments weren't reacting to it?
Hubbert:They were ignoring it, for the most part. In one volume, there was a geologist. Knopf was one of the authors. It had to do with radioactive dating.
Doel:Adolph Knopf from McGill?
Hubbert:Yes. But that was the only geologist involved in it, as I remember. Geodesy was one. They had meteorology. You had oceanography. You may have had seismology, I don't remember.
Doel:All located primarily at institutions which weren't universities.
Hubbert:Yes. So all right, this little conversation with Bastin. I was just furious over the stupidity of this whole thing. So I went back in my wrath, sat down and wrote a private memorandum on the place of geophysics in the department of geology, for Bastin. A memorandum to him. But it was a general review of the scope of both geology and geophysics and so on. I had a bunch of figures that I had drawn up, and I had taken them to a blue print shop downtown to have reprints made of them, by way of figures for this memorandum. I came by the headquarters of the AIME, and said I was not a member of the AIME. Their headquarters were down on 39th St. at the time, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, and their annual meeting was one of the big events of the year. Columbia just practically shut the geology department down for that week of the general meeting of the AIME. Faculty and most of the graduate students went down to attend the meeting. Then the earlier thirties, when I was doing this work for the Illinois Survey, there was a debate here at the AIME called the section of geophysics. The chairman of that was a man by the name of Kelly, who was a man in geophysics. Well, Kelly wrote me a letter and requested that I have a paper that I could give at the next meeting of the AIME. And so I wrote a little paper on one of the various subjects that I'd dealt with in this reconnaissance first summer. It touched on several different things that we looked quickly into. Then we settled down in the first part of the area. I had several, two or three papers in that domain for the next two or three years. I was participating, but not a member of the AIME. In all respects I was treated as if I were. It wasn't until about 1938 or so that I joined the AIME.
Hubbert:But I was a friend of the editorial staff or the headquarters staff. We processed all the papers. Later on, after I became a member, I was a member for two or three years of the papers and publications committee, or whatever they called it. This was the review committee for the whole Institute, the highest level editorial review committee. Anyhow, I came, I picked up those blueprints, and I came by AIME headquarters to see Mr. Kennedy, one of the editors, about something or other. I had this roll of blueprints under my arm, and some question was raised about geophysical education. The AIME had been asked for advice by somebody or other. I had the roll of these blueprints, a dozen or so figures. I spread them out, and said, "Well, here's a thing I've just written. It's just a memorandum but it deals with these questions you're asking." His eyes practically bugged out at this. "Couldn't we have that for the AIME?" Well, I hadn't thought of it, but maybe. He'd get in touch with Kelly and see what could be done. He did, and Kelly immediately decided to have an entire session on the subject of geophysical education at the next meeting, at which I'd be the principal speaker. Then he'd run in two or three other papers, on the spur of the moment, to make a whole afternoon session of it.
Hubbert:That's how this came about. I sent this memorandum on to Bastin, but then I revamped it, with slight revision, for the AIME purpose. Then, when it got into the machine of the AIME, where there was a lot of political opposition in the AIME hierarchy. Not from the staff members, but a lot of people who were very negative about a proposal by analysis.
Doel:Which people in particular?
Hubbert:Oh, one of them was the head of the School of Mines at Columbia, who had formerly been secretary of the AIME. He didn't like one part of this. He was the guy who got me into Columbia in the first place, but here I was criticizing what they were doing at Columbia.
Doel:Was that the reason for this criticism, because it reflected on what Columbia was doing?
Hubbert:I think so. I was very critical of what was going on, and the lack of students, lack of preparation, lack of understanding of what the hell the subject was all about. This paper went through an editorial battle of a year or so before it was published.
Doel:I see. OK. So then it finally did appear in 1938.
Hubbert:Yes. But it was delayed something like a year.
Doel:Were you concerned it might not get published?
Hubbert:Yes, somewhat. In the meantime, the Society of Exploration and Geophysics at Houston read this paper. Some of them had been present and heard it. And they wanted to print it. In the meantime it went through the AIME, but they were going to print it unexpurgated in the Society of Exploration at Houston.
Doel:What did you think could happen after the publication of the article? Did you have specific ideas in mind of how to change?
Hubbert:Well, yes, I had very concrete ideas. The paper itself was very concrete.
Doel:It spells out very clearly the role that you wanted physics to play in departments of geology.
What I did was to examine the whole basics of what are the scopes of these various entire gamut of science. So I simply organized the whole. I said, a science is defined by the phenomena it deals with. Let's start with physics: what does physics deal with? In the broadest sense, matter and energy. Show me any matter and energy in the universe that's excluded. So here's physics, one of the least specialized and the most general of sciences. Well, what about chemistry? It also deals with matter and energy, but more with inner reactions largely of ions and molecules and chemical compounds. So while it's more restrictive in scope, it's still matter and energy within that scope. What about astronomy? It also deals with matter and energy, but this time with the cosmic universe, at the big end of the scale. What about biology? Also matter and energy, but in this case limited to organisms, plants and animals and their interrelation with each other and with the inorganic nonbiologic environment. Geology? Matter and energy, the earth. What is it's place? Well, oh yes, biology, as I pointed out, here's physics at the top, here's chemistry, here's astronomy, then you come down to another layer. Chemists need to know certain aspects of physics, thermodynamics and so on. But a physicist doesn't need to know much chemistry. Astronomy over here, planetary motions, Newtonian gravitation, then we go to stellar phenomena and so on.
An astronomer needs to know physics in a very broad sense. He also needs to know something about the elements, chemistry. You come down to the next layer. Take geology, where you deal with the earth. It's a particular astronomical body, part of the solar system. It has a gravitational field. It's a revolving body, it's thermal, it's an energy problem, and so on. Then time is involved, the geological history. It's the source of the only known organisms in the universe, and you come over here to biology. Well, they're dealing with organisms, but biochemistry very much requires knowledge of chemistry. You're dealing with physical phenomena at the same time, energy relations. There's a kind of a mutual level between geology and biology. Geology is the seat of the evolution of the organisms, and so on. Then in this box I put a "bottom one" down here. I said this was potentially the most general or rather, in this hierarchy, the most dependent on all the rest of them. That would be social phenomena. There you deal with mineral resources, you deal with biology. Then up the ladder chemistry, physics, astronomy, they all come together down here. Yet the people who are working in this domain are doing none of those things. They know nothing about it. If it is to develop as a proper science, it will have to integrate the whole works.
Doel:One of the more interesting arguments that you developed in that paper was the idea that physics would help to simplify geology. You argued that geology at that moment had a very broad and cluttered structure.
Hubbert:Yes, I think that thesis was developed more particularly by the presidential address. That the evolution of science was not from simple to the complex, but from the chaotic to the simple. I think that's in my GSA presidential address.
Doel:That's where I've seen that argument as well, yes. What kind of reaction did you get once that paper was published, among university colleagues working on geophysical problems?
Hubbert:I would say probably universally negative, with a few exceptions. I think I had one favorable letter from somebody.
Hubbert:The attitude among the geologists was defensive, because I was simply putting them on the spot. So, the AIME then established this committee on geophysical education. That committee then started promoting further conferences on this theme. They had two or three and published two or three papers, over six or eight years. I think the final paper of that series was in the early forties. I think that was written when I was here in Washington in 1943, about. We wound up finally by recommending things out of frustration, you might say. See, the geologists dug in. One of the defenses from the geologists — and these things showed up not in print so much as in bull sessions in organizations and in meetings — was that what I was talking about wasn't geology. So what is geology? Well, geology is what geologists do. If you go out and map an area, pound the rocks with a hammer and make a map, that's geology. But suppose that you're dealing with the question of the mechanics of mountain making, or a large number of other things? Well, that isn't geology. So what you're dealing with there is an arbitrary definition. The definition is being made by people being put on the defensive, and they're excluding a large domain of phenomena into no-man's-land. If it isn't geology, then what is it? So we said, "All right, if you insist on that definition of geology, then what we're talking about is not geology, we're talking about physics of the earth." And we weren't going over semantics rather than geophysics or geology, we're dealing with a bad term. In particular we're dealing with the science of the earth. The word geology means in its large sense the science of the earth. Now, if geology is not the science of the earth, what we're doing, what we need, is a science of the earth. As a matter of fact, that's the origin of this term, geoscience, which is widely used right now in the universities.
Doel:Indeed. That's right.
Hubbert:Because the old term geology was too narrow and too restricted.
Doel:Certainly by the 1960's many departments changed the titles to reflect this.
Hubbert:Thus in that last report we were in a state of almost frustration with the negative attitude.
Doel:Let me be certain of the chronology here. When you say the last report, is this the 1943 report or the later reports that you wrote?
Hubbert:The last AIME report, I think, was the report of the committee on geophysical education. By this time we'd just reached an impasse with the geologists. They said, "What you're talking about isn't geology." We said, "All right, we're talking about science of the earth." OK. Now, what we want in the universities is a department that deals with the science of the earth, and if the geology department isn't doing it, we need another department outside of geology.
Doel:That is what you and Strahley had advocated at that time, creating separate departments.
Hubbert:Yes. So we wound up by, reluctantly, and with a certain amount of tongue in cheek, recommending that they establish departments of geophysics to deal with the science of the earth at the principal universities.
Doel:You say tongue in cheek. You didn't expect that to occur?
Hubbert:Essentially, no. The geologists had dug their heels in so thoroughly that we were saying, "Well, all right, if you guys don't want to play ball let's see if we can play some other way." It was partly the idea of smoking these geologists out of this stalemate.
Hubbert:That's the tongue in cheek aspect of it. But anyhow, we did come out with this recommendation. This stirred up enough interest that the National Research Council and the Geological Society of America got involved. The National Research Council set up the committee on geological education.
Doel:That was the Joint Conference on the Committee of Geologic Education?
Hubbert:I don't remember what all. Chester Longwell was chairman of the division.
Hubbert:I didn't know anything about it. I was just near to breaking into the oil industry in Shell and I didn't know what was going on. Chester Longwell came through Houston on a lecture tour, one of these famous lecture tours. He came through about November, and I invited him to dinner. Casually he mentioned, "Did you know that the GSA is having a conference on geological education at their next meeting?" I remarked that I didn't know, and that I once had had some interest in that subject. I was very glad to learn that something was going on. I don't remember now how I got into this.
Doel:This is the Chester Longwell committee meeting?
Hubbert:Yes. The first I knew about it was when Chester dropped this rather casual remark. Anyhow, when this conference did come up, I was one of the speakers on it. It wasn't a formal policy meeting. It was run as a kind of a private or semi-official little conference all on its own.
Doel:Because of the perceived importance of the issue to geologists at the time?
Hubbert:Yes. And Aldrich had all the board it was the regular scientific publication, but he had a little series of things that are called "Interim Proceedings" or something or other which dealt largely with Society affairs. He was using this thing for publishing some of these discussions on geological education.
Hubbert:Anyhow, I don't know whether it was the first of these conferences or the second one where I was one of the invited speakers. I gave a talk at that meeting. I can't remember the title of it.
Doel:The conference that Chester Longwell chaired was the one in 1946 held in conjunction with the AAPG, the first meeting.
Hubbert:I doubt if I was at that one. I didn't know about it.
Doel:You joined later on, then?
Hubbert:Later on. I don't know what year it was, but we'll say about 1945, 1946, was when I gave this talk at the conference held that year.
Doel:Do you remember where that meeting was taking place?
Hubbert:It may have been 1944.
Doel:During the war?
Hubbert:Or just at the end of the war. When I gave this talk, it was given off the cuff. I didn't have a prepared manuscript. Then I actually wrote it up in my hotel room later on for the stenotypist. A local firm had been employed. What happened was, they had arranged for a stenotypist to take down these papers. Then the same stenotypist came to my hotel room with a draft and went over it with me.
Hubbert:That's how it happened. This was then published, along with others of that conference, at some time during the following year. I don't now remember much of what I said at that time, but I do know this. I was a member of the GSA Council shortly after that, and the GSA had a lawyer from a prominent law firm in downtown New York. He sat in on these Council meetings, and I recall that he reported to me that he had read this talk that I had given that was published, and was tremendously impressed with it. In fact, he recommended it to his son, who was about to study geology or something. were set up in Shell for this new research organization. I was making my first trip abroad in 1946. The president of Shell had read this paper. It had been circulated in the interior ranks of the Shell Oil Company.
Doel:That's interesting. This is the 1943 paper?
Hubbert:The paper that I gave at that meeting.
Hubbert:When I was about to go to Europe on my maiden trip — to both attend this conference in Paris but primarily to visit Shell offices in the Hague and so on, a kind of sit-down-and-get-acquainted type of thing — the president surprised the hell out of me. I was in his office, and he said, "Maybe you'd like to visit the British universities, in view of your interest in geological education."
Hubbert:"Christ, yes!" "OK, it will be done." He sent orders immediately to the office to make me appointments in half a dozen British universities.
Doel:Is that so? That's remarkable.
Hubbert:I started out with Leeds, Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.
Doel:How long were you at each of these places?
Hubbert:About a day and a night. Two days at the outside.
Doel:Certainly enough to get strong impressions of how these universities treated geophysics.
Hubbert:Yes. And in my discussions with the staff, after all, I was officially introduced by Shell Oil Company, and Shell Oil Company was a potential source of science positions, an actual source in many cases. So I was handled with due respect.
Doel:That's a very interesting point that you're raising. What was it about the British universities that allows them to integrate geophysics into the curricular more successfully than universities in America?
Hubbert:Well, mainly this kind of thing. Take Cambridge. Cambridge had three separate departments. They had a department of geology, department of mineralogy, and a department of geophysics, each one under a professor.
Doel:Set up like an institute, do you mean?
Hubbert:Yes. The history of that comes out of the structure of British universities. The departments in British universities are again autocratic. They have one professor. He's the boss of the outfit, and all the rest are second class citizens.
Doel:It's interesting to hear you saying this about the period following the Second World War.
Hubbert:Yes, it was still there. That's the first time I had ever encountered it. I wasn't familiar with, didn't know that organizational structure. And I remember particularly Cambridge. Some of the younger men told me quite frankly that they were all looking for another job where they could be the professor and the head of the department. They were all candidates for an opening in some other university. So they'd have these three departments, they had three outstanding men in every one of those, at least two of them. And each one wanted to be head of his own department. That's how the departments at Cambridge were. Well, I commented on this. I was asked by the company to write a commentary on my visits with the universities and my impressions and so on. I commented on the contrast between this and American universities which had multiple professors and various ranks of professorships, but it was a unified organization that at least covered the spectrum in one single organization. They didn't have one who was head of the department and the boss but was a more or less cooperative thing. Well, as far as my comments in that memorandum, part of them upset some of our British colleagues who were very chauvinistic about their institutions.
Doel:How did they get copies?
Hubbert:Well, the secretary sent them a copy.
Doel:What were your impressions of the geophysical research that you saw being done there?
Hubbert:Well, simply that in Cambridge it was very high class. Jeffreys was an international geophysicist. He was the head of geophysics at Cambridge. Well, he was the principal one that I talked to there.
Doel:What sort of a man was he?
Hubbert:He was a very nice person. Very nice wife. He was 50 years old or so. He'd been through the war and was looking a little haggard. In fact, he had been also chairman of the British Bureau of Standards. Of course he'd been heavily involved in top secret military work during the war, and was looking a little the worse for wear from it. Later on he was given the Penrose medal of the Geological Society of America. He was very competent, a very able man. In his personal work he'd been in various fields including gravity work and so on. Everything that I knew of him was good. But not very many here. Like us, they had geology departments but not very much in geophysics. Coming back to the education thing: about this same time, about 1948 or 1949, the Council of the Geological Society of America passed what I regard as a rather pompous-sounding resolution. It authorized the establishment of a committee on geological education, with the assignment to report on the state of geological education in North America. Well, it sounds silly, but the background was that the Geological Society of America in its corporate structure was supposed to deal with promoting geology in North America. So they dragged that in to this committee.
Doel:Was much of this motivated by concerns over the limited role of geology during the war?
Hubbert:Yes, and this thing had been building up. This is where Chester Longwell came in. The AIME stuff had all been done before or principally before World War II. Longwell came in after World War II. Now, what went on there? Well, I think it came as something of a revelation to discover that in the war work, where academics were brought in here for various government types of scientific work, geologists were being looked down upon as second class citizens. They didn't like it. And they were a little restive about it. That explains it. That prompted their reconsideration of where geology stands in this hierarchy of the sciences.
Doel:Was it also a concern over enrollments, over graduate enrollments? They seem to have dropped off during the postwar period.
Hubbert:Well, they were running into trouble in geologic education. And you had things like the [unclear] building up here, big strong geophysical centers, and so on. Other things were beginning to blossom forth a little bit elsewhere. Well, this committee that was set up consisted of three men, a man by the name of George Thiel, of Minnesota, Hendricks, and me. Thomas Hendricks. There were two Hendricks brothers. Tom was the geologist. Well, Thiel was the chairman. When we began to meet it developed that Thiel didn't know what it was all about. He'd written something or other on geological education, I don't know what, previously. He'd also done a little education over something or other. This led to his appointment as chairman. Well, by the time we got through the preliminary draft which Thiel had written for our committee, it was really embarrassing. So Tom and I got together and said, "Look, if we don't counteract this by Thiel, this thing is going to be a disgrace. If the committee is going to turn out anything at all, you and I have got to write it." So we just took over. I don't know what we told George but we indicated we just couldn't agree with his draft, and we thought it didn't get to the heart of the problem. We drafted it for him. We again wrote in a curriculum of what geologists ought to know, what a geological curriculum should contain. That a lot of chemistry, physics, mathematics and so on is a basic integral part of geological education.
Hubbert:That was written into the report as a positive recommendation. Also, in parallel with this — or maybe before this report was issued — we had one session. There was an idea circulating around that they'd borrowed from chemistry. Chemistry had a system of accrediting departments, and if a chemistry department at a small school didn't measure up to the proper standards, they weren't accredited. This was a very bad situation, in the chemical hierarchy.
Doel:And you wanted to bring this to geology departments?
Hubbert:It was proposed by certain members of the geological profession, utilizing chemistry and also some engineering circles as a precedent, that what we needed was accrediting in geology. We had an entire session in which we had various pictures, pro and con, over the subject of accrediting geology departments. Out of that emerged from this was I think a rather general awareness of our problem. It certainly was true in our committee, and I think it was true elsewhere, that the solution to the problems that geology was facing was not a problem of bringing the secondary schools up to the level of the best, it was bringing the best schools to a higher level than they had ever been before. In other words, there was no school in the country that had a geology department up to the level that we thought was possible and should be.
Doel:You also remarked that there was no school in North America teaching in all eight of the areas that the AGU had as sections.
Hubbert:I remember I was doing these things for a long time. Anyhow, that was one of our principal recommendations, that accrediting was not the answer, it wasn't the problem. If we brought them up to the level of the so-called best departments, we'd still be a long distance from where we needed to go. The best departments were not good enough.
Doel:OK. What did you recommend, do you recall?
Well, I'm telling about the things I remember. The recommendation was very positive. We recommended a curriculum, as to the basic sciences it should have. We also recommended that they progressively change the staff. You can't change a geology department overnight, but certainly, as vacancies occur, no matter what you call the subject, if it's taught by the same professor it's still going to be the same subject. Merely changing the title isn't going to change the content. So what we said was that you need to hire a man with this kind of educational background to fill the vacancies as they occurred for existing appointments. Therefore, as vacancies occur by retirement or otherwise, you should pick the best of the younger generation in terms of their education, and start replacing the old generation with these young men. Let them organize the curriculum and their courses. Well, that was the essence of the presentation. This didn't happen overnight, but it began to happen. In the case of Columbia, for example, what you had at the same time was the establishment of the Lamont Laboratory with Maurice Ewing. Those boys were just operating on a totally different basis from the old geology department, and were essentially independent of it. Gradually things began to percolate back to the geology department.
In Wisconsin, they hired one of Maurice Ewing's graduate students, by the name George Ward. He was starting to teach geophysics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. And Ward wrote a letter to the editor, published in GEOPHYSICS stating what he'd been trying to do in geophysics and the frustrations that he had, again because of a lack of background among the students. I think I may have been editor of GEOPHYSICS at the time. I wrote a commentary on Ward's letter to the editor and said that what Ward did not point out that the responsibility for this state of affairs rested squarely with the geology departments. I said they were simply going to have to change, they were responsible for this state of affairs and were going to have to change. Well, the geology departments were pretty embarrassed over this remark, but they did start to change. Gradually we had the same thing going on piecemeal in other places. UCLA set up this Institute of Geophysics, headquartered at UCLA, but actually technically covering the whole University of California system, but with minor parts elsewhere. It was an all-university thing under Slichter, who had been the head of geophysics at MIT.
Doel:Was that when Slichter went to UCLA? Was the Institute set up for him?
Hubbert:He was involved when the Institute was set up. I don't remember the circumstances, but he was chairman of it. And from MIT. Slichter, as I told you, was the son of Charles Slichter in Madison. All right, that began to percolate in the geology department. They got Dave Griggs brought out to UCLA, at the Institute of Geophysics. Then it began to also percolate into the geology departments. Similar things began to take place in Berkeley, Stanford.
Doel:What do you recall specifically what happened at Berkeley and Stanford?
Hubbert:Well, in the case of Stanford, Stanford had this something of [unclear] sciences or whatever it was called, and it changed the name. It was a conglomerate consisting of the geology department, the School of Mines, or the mining department, geophysics department, petroleum engineering department.
Doel:This is the state of affairs after the Second World War?
Hubbert:I don't know the past history of that. It used to be just the geology department. But they had a close tie-in with mines back from the beginning of the university. Hoover, for example, and then Hoover's brother, were chairman of the school of mines.
Doel:That's interesting. I hadn't known that.
Hubbert:Hoover's brother spent his entire career at Stanford. And he was a chairman of the school of mines or whatever it was called up until his retirement. His son was a geologist from the US Geological Survey, who wound up in Stanford around 1912. And then there was an interesting character. He'd been with the Geological Survey about 18 years. He did this elaborate series of experiments on folded mountains. back in the early 1900s and then he'd gotten himself pretty high up in the mines hierarchy, or the Survey. I don't know whether he ever changed jobs, but he was an operator of some influence. I was talking with an old timer who was there at the time as a young man during the war, retired from the Survey, about these various people that I knew either just by name or in the case of [???]. I know slightly personally, and asked him, how did the Survey feel about him? He said the younger men pretty thoroughly disliked him. That was probably responsible for his leaving, he got so fed up with it. But he went to Stanford, and he found there a very favorable environment and he was a very great man in Stanford by the time he finally died. His office now is practically a museum, preserved for posterity complete with his books and papers and what not. The son of the Hoover who was the head of the mining school married… no, the other way around: the son of Bailey Willis married the daughter of the Hoover of the school of mines. I got it confused… Geophysics, and George Thompson—
Doel:At Stanford, right.
Hubbert:Yes, was one of the professors.
Doel:In the 1950s.
Hubbert:George was an MIT student. Well, George had asked me informally some time before that, maybe a year or two before, if I would come to Stanford. He wanted me to give a lecture to his class in structural geology. So I was there with these lectures I was giving, which were daily for several days. George came around and wanted me to talk to his class in structural geology. I said, "George, I'm so busy, I just don't see how I can. If I talked to them it would be things that are already published, the students are familiar with them already, and I just can't do it." Well, in the little bull session I said, "Look, George, in geology, structural geology, deformation of rocks, we're dealing with finite strain. There are geological papers by our contemporaries dealing with this, by various authors, and most of them are embarrassingly naive, erroneous. They just don't understand what they're talking about. Now, actually the formula for finite strain was worked out back in the middle of the last century by various mathematicians in France and so on. So what we really need to do is to dig up this original work done by these people and simply translate it into geology." "What are you talking about?" "Well," I said, "this is something some of your graduate students might be interested in. It would be worth doing." "Well, talk about that." So I did. I went over and talked to them off the cuff about finite strain and its ramifications in geology and so on. When I got through, one of the graduate students-they were students in the course-came up and urgently wanted to review his thesis with me. I said, "I'm sorry, I can't do it, I'm leaving day after tomorrow." George came and wished I would talk to this student. In the meantime, the dean of the school was at the AIME meeting, the annual meeting in New York or somewhere. He telephoned back and wanted me to stay on till he got back because he wanted to talk with me on Saturday. So I changed my schedule. I then reported back to George, OK, I could see the student on Saturday morning. On Saturday morning the student and George Thompson and Ben Page in geology and I went in the classroom. I said, "Look, I probably don't understand everything you've done, but why don't you go to the blackboard and simply tell me what you've been doing. I'll be interested to learn even if I may not understand it." So he went to the board. His thesis was a study of the Los Angeles basins from the point of view of finite strain.
Hubbert:He'd done a superb job. He knew what he was doing. He understood and the professors didn't.
Doel:Who was he, by the way?
Hubbert:His name was David Willis. He was a grandson of this [other] Willis I knew. Willis's son had married Hoover's daughter, and this was the guy.
Hubbert:Without going into the details, I was so impressed that when the dean came back, Charlie Clark, I said, "Look, I wasn't recruiting, but I need a personal assistant for this thing I'm working on. I can't tell you that what I'll be doing is terribly interesting and I can't tell you exactly what I need, except I want a guy who can do anything I can do only better, and that's this guy." Well, he was interested. I wound up hiring him and he worked for me for two years. Then he took a job in the Lockheed Company in their Aberdeen satellite work, as assistant to the research director. He finally wound up in charge of computers for Lockheed. And then he quit Lockheed and set himself up a little company which he sold at a profit. He's been operating independently ever since. He lives there in the neighborhood of Stanford. Atherton. Let me make a digression, while we're on geological education. What was going on, Stanford had a small geophysics department.
Doel:This is again right after the war, we're talking about now?
Hubbert:Well, no, this was during the fifties.
Hubbert:When I went there as a visiting professor in 1952, just one quarter, they wanted me to give their course in oil geology. I proposed instead to give a course on the physics of underground fluids, the migration, trapped fluids, etc. And I did. This was a fairly advanced course for advanced undergraduate students and graduate students, and was attended by geologists and ground water hydrologists among others, civil engineering students and civil engineering students, and geophysicists. It was a pretty broad cross-section. Well, I gave this course then for the next seven or eight years, and roughly the same course and research. Again this illustrates the evolution that had taken place in geology since World War II. This was a fairly advanced course in theoretical physics in part. Not all geologists could take it, but there were geologists who were taking it, and we had geophysicists, petroleum engineers and civil engineers who came in for this. This kind of thing was going on. It was going on at Caltech, of course, and in UCLA, and Berkeley —it's hard to say, I don't really know about their geology department, because when I was out there I was headquartered in the department of industrial engineering and computer sciences.
Doel:Right, this is the early 1970's when you were there.
Hubbert:Yes, 1973. And I only saw the geologists at cocktail parties. With one exception, I talked to the geology student group, organization.
Doel:I want to turn to that later. I'm curious what your impression was of the role that the new government funding played in establishing geophysics after the Second World War. Certainly there were funds for oceanography, and for seismology.
Hubbert:I think it was rather secondary. I think the funding went along with the people, and if you had people who needed geophysical funding you had to have geophysical people first. I was a member of the Geophysical Advisory Panel of the Office of Naval Research after the war. They had a bunch of money left over and didn't know what to do with it. They were organizing an advisory committee, or a series of advisory committees, to advise them on disposition of this.
Doel:You were a member of the earth sciences group?
Hubbert:I was a member of the earth sciences group. Then that was succeeded by the National Science Foundation, and I was a charter member of the Earth Sciences Advisory Panel for the National Science Foundation for a total term of five or six years. After the first year of shake-down, we drew straws to see who would be the chairman. I got the long straw and I was the chairman of that for the rest of my tenure, which was about three or four years.
Doel:That was in the NSF?
Doel:What was it like during the time that it was the ONR? Do you remember any particular discussions over what would be funded in earth sciences?
Hubbert:Well, there was a lot of requests for money. So it was evaluation of projects. There wasn't much planning as to what ought to be done. It was largely responding to requests of what people wanted to do. And that same thing went on in the NSF.
Doel:Did you have particular projects you wanted to see funded or preferred to see funded within geophysics?
Hubbert:Again, we weren't taking the initiative on that. We were only passing judgment on these proposals.
Doel:Whether it was good science or not.
Hubbert:Yes, whether it showed promise, how it compared with others—if you only had so much money and had requests for twice that amount, things you had to weigh and consider, one against the other, and in particular throw out the weaklings and incompetents.
Doel:Do you recall roughly what percentage of applications were funded during that time?
Hubbert:Well, I can't say so much for the Office of Naval Research, because that only lasted a year or two when I was on it. But I was on the NSF for about four or five years. In NSF were various competitive situations, to which I reacted very strongly negatively. And that is, you'd have a professor that had a scheme of things. The applicants for the thing, if there were two or more principal investigators — these had to be looked at with considerable caution, because very probably the principal investigators were going to hire somebody to do the work. It was going to be the graduates or whoever it might be. He wasn't going to do the work, he was going to hire somebody to do the work. There were some pretty rank cases of that sort. The worst that I recall, I won't give you the name of the school, but there was a certain school in which two professors listed themselves as principal investigator on this proposal. What they were going to work on was rock mechanics, as I remember it. One of them, his past experience was in petroleum engineering, as I recall, and another one mine safety and ventilation. What are they going to do? They're going to build a half million dollar building and hire men to do the work.
Doel:You wrote about this in '63. 
Hubbert:Right. They didn't get the grant. But that pattern repeated itself often enough to be a nuisance.
Doel:Was that something you discussed with others who were doing similar evaluations within the NSF?
Hubbert:Well, our committee set a standard in the NSF, on what you might call scientific integrity.
Doel:How was that?
Hubbert:One of the hardest boiled committees in the whole establishment, to the great annoyance of the director.
Hubbert:Yes. None of the other people were comparable with us.
Doel:In setting high standards?
Hubbert:Most of the damned committees apparently didn't do anything, as far as actually evaluating projects was concerned. The NSF hierarchy at that time had a man on the staff who was called program director. Or Manager, or whatever it was. Their original idea was that we'd just kind of be a board of advisors, informal advisors, and the managing director would really do all the decisions. I said, nothing doing. If we're going to be a board of advisors, we're going to read these reports and we're going to advise you about them, pro and con. Well, it turned out that in order to do this, they'd just send us projects. Here, a project comes by. Well, now we've got this advisory body and here Joe Doaks over here on the committee, he wants to get his friend's project through. We said, nothing of the sort. We'll not recommend any project that isn't recommended by the entire panel. In other words, it's a panel recommendation, not an individual, because most of us don't know enough about all of it. None of us know about all these things, but our collective judgment, on both the people and the subjects, is far better than any individual could do.
Doel:Outside of geology and astronomy, were the other committees evaluating on this basis?
Hubbert:I think they were operating on this basis of Joe Doaks. It was a kind of a minor advisory board without doing any real work. Well, we said, furthermore we can't do this by mail. We've got to meet. They didn't have any travel funds, so they said. So we struggled along with that for a while. We finally did get enough money so we could get together about once a year and go over this whole slate. But we stood our ground on this. I think we exercised a considerable amount of influence ultimately in the NSF.
Doel:Was Alan Waterman director at the time?
Doel:Do you recall any particular discussions with him about standards?
Hubbert:Well, not much in detail, but he didn't like what we were doing. It wasn't what he had in mind.
Doel:What did he have in mind?
Hubbert:I think he had in mind that we'd be kind of a — kind of a front, and the staff would make their own decisions. All we'd do is act as a kind of a facade for it. It wasn't their idea.
Doel:That's very interesting.
Hubbert:One time it came to the point where we actually balloted, whether to resign en masse.
Hubbert:That scared them so bad that when I came up to a meeting of the advisory committee of the Research Council on Atomic Wastes, they had one of their staff men come by with an olive branch. Before we got together.
Doel:How many people were involved in that committee?
Hubbert:The committee was about eight or ten people. I don't remember how many.
Doel:Just within the geological sciences?
Hubbert:Yes. They had different corresponding committees for the other sciences.
Doel:Were the other sections also considering resigning at the same time?
Hubbert:No, they didn't have this conflict. We wanted to set these standards. And the standards were not what Waterman wanted. We finally had a showdown over it.
Doel:And do you feel that you were able to succeed in establishing that as the standard?
Hubbert:Well, I think we had a lasting influence.
Doel:What I'd like to do is go back to a few questions about the committee work you were involved in during the Second World War. The American Geological Institute, the AGI was also set up then. Were you involved in the planning for the Institute?
Hubbert:Well, I was involved not in the initiation, but at a later stage when I was president of the Geological Society of America, in 1962. The AGI was undergoing some revision of its structure, constitution and so on. We had in the Geological Society a very difficult problem, when the man who succeeded Aldrich was a dictatorial type —
Doel:Who was this?
Hubbert:A man by the name of Betts. He had damn near wrecked the organization. We had to fire him.
Doel:When was it that Betts came on? The 1950's?
Hubbert:No, it was either late 1950's or early 1960's.
Doel:OK, we can check that.
Hubbert:It had really got bad by 1962. But anyhow, here was — oh yes, Henry Aldrich. Jean Paul Henry worked like a slave on this job, and we wanted to honor him by making him a member of the Council, which is a member of the board of directors. They'd done so. Well, that was a harmless thing as far as Henry Aldrich was concerned, but it wasn't harmless with his successor. His successor began to use his corporate position in the organization. This was the time when corporations were having this menace of — this was before the [modern era of] takeovers, but the takeover of stockholders, proxies. He even had the idea of having a stockholders' proxy for the GSA of throwing out the management.
Hubbert:Top of the thing. Well, I won't go into that, except that was the background. The AGI was about to get into the same situation. In their revised constitution they had again the president or whatever his title was as a member of the board of officers. That's a very bad situation. So I put my feet down over that, and said, nothing doing. Anybody drawing a salary is an employee and not an officer of the organization. Keep out of that one. And they did.
Doel:What was the initial purpose of the AGI?
Hubbert:Oh, it was promoted by, again, the sense that geology wasn't getting the proper recognition it deserved. One of the principal promoters of that was Carey Croneis, and Carey Croneis was a promoter all of his life anyway. If he wasn't promoting one thing, he was promoting something else. And so this was one of his favorites. It was really a public relations thing, to enhance the so-called… what do public relations people call it? Not the image, the —
Hubbert:Yeah. They have a word for it. It was to upgrade public perception of geology. So that was how the thing started. But it had a legitimacy of sorts, because it ultimately developed a kind of coordination of what was going on in a whole series of science and engineering societies. It further served the useful purpose of certain types of publications, pulling together things of common interest, and get out a report or a volume on that. But basically it isn't a terribly important organization, never was.
Doel:OK. Another thing I'm curious about is the relationship between the AIME and the AGU during the war and afterwards? Was there much contact between them?
Hubbert:Oh no, they were miles apart then. They had little interest in each other.
Doel:There were never any talks of having joint meetings or in any way bringing the members of the two societies together?
Hubbert:No. The AGU was only interested with respect to scientific seismology and meteorology, oceanography, geodesy and so on. In fact, it started out originally as the American chapter of the International Union of Geology and Geophysics, Geodesy and Geophysics, I mean.
Hubbert:Largely the geophysics part of the AIME came in entirely from the few individuals who were working on mining geophysics and in the oil industry got into it. It was exploration geophysics.
Doel:OK. There's one other issue from the 1930's that I wanted to talk to you about. Then it might be a good time for us to end for today. It was in 1938 that you married Miriam Graddy Berry. I'm curious how you met your wife. Could you tell me about that?
Hubbert:I was working for the USGS down in Kentucky.
Doel:OK. This was summer work?
Hubbert:Yes. And I met some people down there who were mining geophysicists and geologists. His father was running a little feldspar mine, and he was associated with it in the dark days of the Depression. I met these people, had dinner with them a few times. They had this friend of the woman; they'd been school mates together in Kentucky. She was now in New York, and somebody suggested we meet. So I came back to New York, with this kind intermediary, and we did meet. And we're still around.
Doel:Did she have an interest in science?
Hubbert:Well, she was a medical secretary for a big pharmaceutical company. She was secretary to the director of the medical department, or something of the sort. In that connection, she wasn't just typing, but was reading scientific literature just as a part of her job. Actually she had a good deal of official correspondence, and wrote the letters herself. Doctors and what not, over questions, because she knew what the company was doing and the scientific literature in the field. She did a good deal of routine correspondence with the medical profession just in that capacity. Then later on, that company, I believe, moved to New Jersey. She didn't want to go to New Jersey, so she switched to another company. The one company was a subsidiary of the German I.G. Farben. She was with them then for several years. At the end of that, I don't remember…but one of the whiskey, alcohol distilling companies tried to go into penicillin. Schenley. They were starting from scratch, and hired a medical director. She worked for him.
Doel:OK. Had you talked with her often about issues in your scientific work? Had you shared much with her?
Hubbert:Well, she typed most of it. The JG paper, she typed it at night, and most of the other papers. I didn't have a secretary at the university. I couldn't type but with two fingers. I wrote my own letters, make a mistake, ‘x' it out and go on. But the paper on scale models, the GSA headquarters typed that.
Doel:Did they? Was that unusual?
Hubbert:Yes. But they did it.
Doel:OK. We've been talking now for almost three hours.
We'd better stop. We'd better sign off.
Hubbert, "Are we retrogressing in Science?" SCIENCE 139 (8 March 1963): 884-890.