George W. White

1903 to 1985
History of Geology

George Willard White was Professor of Geology and Head of the Department of Geology of the University of Illinois from 1947 to 1965, Research Affiliate to the Illinois State Geological Survey from the late 1940s through the 1970s, and graduate thesis advisor for many of the ISGS staff. He nourished strong ties to the Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania Geological Surveys, the Geological Survey of Canada, and several of the Canadian provincial surveys. He authored 150 publications on glacial, economic, and engineering geology as well as his most special interest, the history of geology. His detailed account in 1973 of the history of investigation and classification of the Wisconsin Drift is most noteworthy with respect to Illinois geology.

White was born in North Lawrence, Ohio, the son of a minister. He received his baccalaureate degree from Otterbein College in 1921 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from Ohio State University in 1925 and 1933. He was associated with the University of New Hampshire from 1926 to 1941, where he began as an instructor and moved through the academic ranks to Professor and Head of the Department of Geology; he also served as Dean of the Graduate School. There he began his lifelong support of the Friends of the Pleistocene. White returned home to Ohio as a professor of geology at Ohio State University from 1941 to 1947, and, for the last of those years, he served also as State Geologist of Ohio before moving to Illinois in 1947 as Head of the Department of Geology and later as Research Professor in 1965 and Research Professor Emeritus in 1971. His research continued through a very productive period of 1973 to 1981 as a consultant to the Ohio Geological Survey. He was awarded honorary degrees by Otterbein College, the University of New Hampshire, and Bowling Green State University.

George W. White married Mildred Kissner in 1928. She passed away several years after he did. They did not have children but developed especially strong and enduring friendships with his many graduate students. He had an amazing breadth of interests as a scholar, teacher, bibliophile, university administer, churchman, and friend. As his field assistant, I quickly learned that our sack lunches would most often be enjoyed on the lawn of a rural church or small park while we discussed science, history, philosophy, and life. At the door of the world-class geology library of the University of Illinois a large brass plaque names that library in his honor in appreciation of his long advocacy for the building its collections.

Honored by: 
David L. Gross
Citation Contributed by: 
David L. Gross