W. Arthur White
W. Arthur White was born in 1916 and grew up in southeastern Illinois. He started his professional employment as a student assistant in Ralph Grim's clay minerals program at the Survey in 1938. After he earned a B.S. in agriculture from the University of Illinois in 1940, White worked a short time in the chemical industry. He returned to the Survey in 1943 as an assistant geologist and received an M.S. (1947) and a Ph.D. (1955) from Grim's clay minerals program in the Geology Department at the University of Illinois. He was promoted to Associate Geologist in 1948 and Geologist in 1955. From 1958 to 1972, he headed the Clay Resources and Clay Minerals Technology Section at the Survey. White retired in 1979, but he worked as a consultant to the Illinois clay industry and continued to assist the Survey program until his death in 1998.
Art White was highly successful working with industrial minerals companies in Illinois. He managed the Survey's ceramic, particle size, and engineering testing laboratories. He also assembled Illinois' widely recognized industrial clay mineral database and greatly expanded Grim's sample library. His near-photographic memory of field locations and careful field observations were important aids to the geologists he helped. He performed important studies of ceramic clays, structural damage from expansion of bricks, and the causes of geological hazards in surficial deposits and underground coal mine floors and roofs. White performed early studies in foundation and septic field problems for the Survey's landmark geology-for-planning studies. His studies of the formation of subaqueous (syneresis) cracks in fine-grain sediments called into question several unconformities that had been thought to represent surfaces exposed to erosion and drying and contributed to the understanding of several problems in hydrogeology and waste migration.
Like many other Ralph Grim students, White worked closely with soil scientists, geologists, and engineers. In 1970, as a result of his global reputation, White was given a one year leave of absence from the Survey to serve as an invited professor in Brazil. He supervised and mentored several graduate students who went on to careers in clay science. White was known for allowing his students wide freedom to explore new areas, and once he was convinced of a student's new idea, he was a steadfast backer.
Art and his wife Alma traveled to many national and international meetings, often at their own expense. Like so many ISGS scientists, the many valuable contacts and new ideas from these travels represent additional contributions to the Survey and to Illinois.