George M. Wilson
Born near Potomac, Illinois, in 1915, George Miller Wilson's early life on the farm was most helpful when he became a field geologist. He could talk corn, soybeans, livestock, and weather with local farmers when he sought help in locating an old mine, a drill hole, or an outcrop. After stints as a rod man for topographic mapping with the U.S. Geological Survey and with the Vermilion County Soil Conservation Association in Danville, Wilson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1942 with a major in geology and minors in chemistry and microbiology. He began work at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) that same year in the Coal Section, under Gilbert H. Cady, where he was active in field logging oil test holes in deeper parts of the Illinois Basin to assemble data on minable coals. During spring 1944, he earned an M.S. degree at the University of Illinois.
From 1946 to 1949 and again from mid-1953 to mid-1954, Wilson worked with various coal companies as a geologist for coal exploration, appraisal, and acquisition of coal properties in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, and Wyoming. However, he always returned to the ISGS. It was Morris M. Leighton, who, as one of his last acts before retiring as Chief of the Survey in June 1954, rehired Wilson as geologist and head of the Educational Extension Section, where he served as liaison of scientific work between the ISGS and the general public, especially the public schools. This work fully utilized Wilson's long-time geological interests, which included paleontology, stratigraphy, glacial geology, and mineralogy. A major activity of Educational Extension was one-day field trips for school teachers and the public, and, annually for many years, six trips were held throughout the state of Illinois. Wilson revitalized this effort and authored or coauthored 94 extensive field guides for these trips. He was also instrumental in the program that provided sets of rock and mineral samples typical of Illinois to schools, scout groups, nature and science clubs, and other educational organizations requesting them. He also handled the avalanche of rock and mineral specimens sent to the Survey by the public for identification.
Wilson suffered a severe stroke in May 1960, returning to work full time at the Survey in 1965 until he went on disability leave in 1973. In addition to his great love for geology, Wilson's gift for making friends around the state illustrated his dedication to geology in the public service.