Special Publication - 12
A Brief History of Geological Studies in New Mexico
With Biographical Profiles of Notable New Mexico Geologists

book cover

Barry S. Kues, Claudia J. Lewis, and Virgil W. Lueth, [editors], 2014, 234 pages.

New Mexico is a state with wonderfully diverse geological features, many of which are of international significance. This volume traces the evolution of our understanding of the geology of New Mexico, from Puebloan and Hispanic use of geological materials and the first observations made during the Mexican-American War in the 1840s, to modern studies incorporating plate tectonics, radiometric dating of rocks, and use of advanced analytical instruments. The historical narrative also encompasses the discoveries of the first geologists to work in New Mexico during the 1850s; the post-Civil War studies of geologists associated with the great federal geological surveys; the rapid advances in knowledge led by the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1890-1920 period; the time between the two world wars when New Mexico became a major petroleum-producing state; and the 1940-1970 period, when research on and knowledge of all aspects of New Mexico geology advanced at an unprecedented rate. Throughout this history is a focus on the men and women who made important contributions to understanding the stratigraphy, structure, paleontology, volcanology, Precambrian geology, geomorphology, geologic history, and mineral, fuel and water resources of the state. Biographical profiles portray the lives and accomplishments of 42 notable geologists who played leading roles in deciphering New Mexico’s remarkable geological record over the past 170 years.


The profiles in this book are of deceased geologists that have made important advances in understanding the geology of New Mexico. However, there are a large number of geologists still with us that deserve recognition for their geological contributions in New Mexico. The society has decided to honor these geologists by recording a living history of their lives and work. There are several profiles of living geoscientists already submitted by New Mexico Tech students from the Spring 2013 Science Writing class. You are welcome to suggest a "Notable New Mexico geologist" for the recognition of their work, or to contribute to a living history profile.