Frank W. DeWolf

1881 to 1957
Second Director (Chief); Coal Geology

Frank W. DeWolfBorn in Vail, Iowa, Frank DeWolf was introduced to the subject of geology as a high school student; his interest continued at the University of Chicago. In 1904, he accepted a position with the U.S. Geological Survey, and, in 1906, he was loaned to the newly activated Illinois State Geological Survey for a study of southern Illinois coal. He succeeded H. Foster Bain as the second Director of the Survey in 1909; during his 14 years as Director, he gave the organization a sound and aggressive administration.

Because the mineral wealth of Illinois had not been studied in detail since the days of the first Survey (called the Worthen Survey), DeWolf initiated a series of Illinois Mining Investigations on Illinois coal, resulting in a series of thirty-three publications and other related papers on the geology, mining practices, and chemical composition of coal. The continuing discovery of important oil fields in southeastern Illinois during the early part of his administration encouraged DeWolf to expand the Survey's investigations of the geology and petroleum resources of southern Illinois. In addition to these surface and subsurface programs, a topographic mapping program was energetically carried forward, and special studies on industrial minerals and water supplies resulted in published reports on lead, zinc, fluorspar, clays, sand and gravel, limestone, and water supplies.

DeWolf recognized that the Survey could make an important contribution to education, and, as a result, the Survey published and disseminated a series of educational bulletins for teachers on the geology of Illinois. During World War I, a geological report was prepared on the military significance of topography and the principles of map reading as an aid in training officers in the Camp Grant area of northern Illinois. From 1917 to 1918, he briefly interrupted his service as Director of the Illinois Survey to serve as Assistant Director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

In 1923, DeWolf went on to head petroleum exploration in Texas, Oklahoma, and the Gulf Coast region, and he then returned to the University of Illinois in 1931 to assume duties as Head of the Department of Geology and Geography before retiring in 1946. A public-spirited citizen, he participated in many worthwhile organizations, notably contributing to the progress of the national effort in the World War I. He was a gentleman of the old school, and he was remembered for his courtesy, graciousness, fairness, and soft-spoken voice. He had a keen intellect.

Frank DeWolf's most important contribution to the Survey was to give it a new direction and enlarge upon its importance as an agency serving Illinois in the development of its natural resources. His imprint on the organization was one of service and advice in the mapping and development of the state's resources, the creation of a statewide educational service, the development of a highly qualified staff of scientists, and sound business organization.

Honored by: 
Jack A. Simon.
Citation Contributed by: 
Myrna M. Killey.
From ISGS Bulletin 60, 1931; from GSA memorial, 1957; also from unpublished notes of M.W. Leighton, 2004.