John E. Lamar

1897 to 1979
Industrial Minerals

John E. LamarJohn Everts Lamar, known as J.E. to associates and friends throughout the country, was born in Michigan. He earned a B.S. degree from the University of Chicago. While a student there, he was employed by the Illinois State Geological Survey as a field assistant to J Harlen Bretz in mapping the Camp Grant area at Rockford, then a major training center of the U.S. Army. The Survey was only 15 years old when Lamar joined the small staff of full-time geologists in 1920.

Except for teaching one semester at the University of Illinois, Lamar spent the rest of his career with the Survey. He was the Survey's first micropaleontologist, studying ostracodes of the Chesterian shales and the Survey's first petroleum engineer, studying sources of drilling muds and corrosion of oil-field well casing and tubing in the mid-1920s. At about the same time, his study of karst topography and sewage disposal in the Alton area was an early entrance of the Survey into the field of engineering geology. He set up the Survey's first sedimentation laboratory, one of the earliest in the country. His field studies during his early years included limestone and dolomite quarries in northern Illinois and the geologic mapping and stratigraphy of the Carbondale Quadrangle in southern Illinois.

Lamar developed the Survey's program in industrial minerals in the 1920s and served as its first department head. He gave the first detailed description of the entire Chesterian Series in southwestern Illinois and differentiated the principal sandstone and shale formations of the basal Pennsylvanian strata. He also made the first detailed map of a segment of the glacial border in southern Illinois.

Lamar's report on the St. Peter Sandstone in 1928 is a classic. His publication in 1938 describing the many uses of limestone and dolomite and the chemical and physical specifications of stone for most uses has been called the finest publication in its field, and it has been widely used both nationally and internationally. During World War II, he directed a study of the fluorspar deposits of southern Illinois and the lead and zinc deposits of northwestern Illinois, which stimulated prospecting and the discovery of additional ore bodies. He also directed the geologic mapping of the Fluorspar District 7.5-minute quadrangles.

Lamar was dedicated to service work and spent much time answering requests for technical information in letters and phone calls and in consultations with visitors. There was always a little pixie in Lamar, exemplified by an unpublished short story he wrote on "Little Petey:, a history of the adventures of a grain of St. Peter Sandstone. J. E. Lamar stands as a giant at the Illinois State Geological Survey.

Honored by: 
Jonathan H. Goodwin, Richard D. Harvey, Zakaria Lasemi, and Myrna M. Killey
Citation Contributed by: 
Myrna M. Killey
Much of the biographical material taken verbatim from GSA memorial (ISGS Reprint 1981-F); also from M.M. Killey, personal communication.