Willis S. Blatchley

1859 to 1940
Petroleum Geology

Willis S. BlatchleyWillis Stanley Blatchley was born in Connecticut on October 6, 1859, but grew up in Indiana, receiving his early education with his father as one of his teachers. He earned funds to attend several six-week sessions at schools. After teaching several years, he married Clara A. Fordice in 1882 and entered Indiana University in 1883. Upon receiving his A.B. degree in 1887, he taught science in Terre Haute High School. He received his master's degree from Indiana University in 1891 and was elected State Geologist of Indiana in 1894. He served in that position for 16 years.

At the invitation of H. Foster Bain, the first Director of the Illinois State Geological Survey, Blatchley came to the ISGS in 1906 to help initiate the Survey's first program in petroleum geology. That same year, Blatchley developed and published details of the petroleum industry of southeastern Illinois, which was especially relevant since the state was in the middle of an oil boom that started in 1904. This report, with contributions from others, appeared as only the second bulletin in the Survey's Bulletin series. In his report, Blatchley included some "skeleton logs" from a number of boreholes in Clark, Crawford, and Lawrence Counties, some of which had been collected by Arthur W. Lewis. Lewis was detailed by Bain during the winter of 1905 to 1906 to collect such records and other data as circumstances permitted. The work of R.S. Blatchley and A.W. Lewis represented the beginning of the Survey's efforts in petroleum geology and of its modern Geological Records Unit. Blatchley returned to resume his position as State Geologist of the Indiana Survey, a position he held until 1911.

Blatchley was a charter member of the Indiana Academy of Science, was made Fellow in 1893, and served as President in 1903. Later, after leaving the Indiana Survey, he also secured national standing as an entomologist and became known as Indiana's greatest naturalist. Indiana University honored him with the LL.D. degree in 1921.

Honored by: 
Scott M. Frailey, John Steinmetz, Steven R. Gustison, John P. Grube, and David G. Morse
Citation Contributed by: 
Morris W. Leighton and Anne C. Faber