E. Wesley Shaw

1881 to 1935
Geological Mapping

E. Wesley ShawBorn in Delaware, Ohio, E.W. Shaw attended Ohio Wesleyan University. After taking a two-year leave to work on cattle and sheep ranches in the western United States, he graduated in 1905. Shaw commenced graduate studies at the University of Chicago, but he cut short his academic career to join the U.S. States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1907. While at the USGS, Shaw's research took him to at least 11 states and several foreign countries, and he published on a wide range of subjects that included stratigraphy, geomorphology, stream terraces, deltas, mud lumps at the mouth of the Mississippi River, coral reefs, and oil and gas deposits.

Shaw was a prolific field mapper with the USGS and the Illinois State Geological Survey in a cooperative program to map coal, oil, lead-zinc, and clay. He authored or coauthored eight USGS folios, each of which comprise geologic maps of two 15-minute (or eight 7.5 -minute) topographic quadrangles. Six of these were in Illinois: Murphysboro-Herrin in southern Illinois; New Athens-Okawville, Belleville-Breese, and Carlyle-Centralia in south-central Illinois; Tallula-Springfield in central Illinois; and Galena-Elizabeth at the state's northwestern corner. Several of these were preceded or followed by topical reports, including three Illinois State Geological Survey bulletins. With T.E. Savage, Shaw first described Pleistocene lake terraces in the Murphysboro-Herrin area.

In 1921, Shaw resigned from the USGS and went into private consulting, focusing on oil and gas. He made numerous expeditions to South America and the Middle East. His discovery of the giant Baba Gurgur oil field, which still produces today, launched Iraq as a major petroleum producing nation. Shaw became chief geologist of the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1929 and remained in that role until forced to resign by the illness that ended his life.

Those who knew Shaw described him as a modest man who kept his own counsel, yet who was genuinely interested in others. As a scientist, he was known for his keen insight and high ethical standards.

Honored by: 
W. John Nelson
Citation Contributed by: 
W. John Nelson