Merlyn B. Buhle

1905 to 1979
Groundwater Geophysics

Merlyn B. BuhleKnown as "Mr. Resistivity" at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), Merlyn Boyd Buhle was born in Chicago and grew up in Moline, Illinois. He received his geological training at the University of Iowa, earning a B.A. in 1933 and an M.S. in 1935. He worked as a geophysicist in groundwater investigations for Layne-New York in New York City, the American Geophysical Company in Baltimore, Maryland, the U.S. Geological Survey, and part-time for the ISGS in 1934 to 1935 before joining the ISGS full time in 1938 in the Subsurface Division under L.E. Workman. Buhle worked as a geologist and geophysicist at the Illinois Survey for more than 35 years.

During his career at the ISGS as a member of the Groundwater Geology and Geophysical Exploration Section, Buhle helped introduce Illinois to the practical side of geophysics through the use of electrical earth resistivity (EER) surveying in the search for adequate groundwater supplies, principally in glacial and alluvial sediments. Many industrial, municipal, farm, and domestic supplies were located using the EER techniques, often where other methods had failed. Buhle conducted more than one thousand resistivity surveys throughout Illinois to aid municipalities, public institutions, industries, and farmers in finding suitable locations for drilling water wells; most of these surveys were across the middle third of the state where sand and gravel aquifers are the most favorable sources of groundwater.

Buhle became acquainted with most of the water-well contractors and many of the consulting engineers and waterworks superintendents in the state in the course of his work. The groundwater industry in Illinois looked upon him as always willing to help in searching for a sand and gravel deposit for a water supply. Many towns and villages have well fields in deposits he located with resistivity. While at the Survey, he was author of a number of scientific papers on EER surveying. The scope of his efforts is best captured in his 1964 article on EER in Illinois. After his retirement in 1973, he continued to conduct EER surveys as a consultant until shortly before his death. Merlyn Buhle was well respected both by his colleagues at the Survey and by the many citizens of Illinois he helped.

Honored by: 
Philip C. Reed
Citation Contributed by: 
Myrna M. Killey
Acknowledgments: 
Mostly verbatim from his obituary in Water Equipment News, August 1979; also from unknown correspondent.