From the President-February 2020

From the President ..  Planning for HGS’s 100th Birthday 

by Jon Blickwede

This month, I’ve decided to take a detour from my exploration theme to highlight the fact that the centennial of the HGS is just around the corner and the preparations for celebrating this milestone are well underway. The HGS 100th Year Anniversary Committee is co-chaired by Charles & Linda Sternbach, who summarize the current plans:
“On August 8, 2023 HGS will officially celebrate its 100th Anniversary. This is a major event for HGS, and it’s just the beginning. HGS leads the way for other geological societies in the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies (GCAGS), who will follow with their own centennials in the years after HGS. The committee anticipates that HGS will feature a variety of events, including:

• A public outreach event (similar to HGS Guest Night) at the Houston Museum of Natural Science the year before the centennial, to help build excitement and raise sponsorship awareness for the centennial itself;
• A celebration party on the actual anniversary (Tuesday the 8th of August 2023);
• A two-day, standalone technical conference (probably September 2023) bringing together global experts on Gulf of Mexico (GoM) geoscience. Sessions will include structure and tectonics, sedimentation, petroleum systems, historical plays, technology and future opportunities. We will also focus a session on ‘What Do We Still Not Know About the GoM?’;
• A two-day conference and field trip, in collaboration with the Petroleum History Institute, to visit historical sites and locations in the greater Houston area, in conjunction with the abovementioned technical conference;
• HGS hosts GeoGulf (GCAGS annual convention) in Houston (October 2023).

In addition, we are exploring the potential of creating video tributes of past HGS presidents, great explorers and notable geoscientists. We are looking into special publications and ways to engage oil companies of every size, service companies, Houston area universities, museums, library collections, media and the general public.”
If you are interested in helping with any part of the HGS Centennial, please contact Linda at or Charles at

I’ve recently been reading a little about the history of HGS, starting with Rockhounds of Houston by the pioneering Humble (now ExxonMobil) paleontologist Alva Ellisor, published in 1947.  In it, I discovered some interesting bits of HGS trivia, including:
• The precursor to the HGS was the Houston Academy of Sciences, founded by Edwin T. Dumble, who was the first State Geologist of Texas (1888), and also founded the first commercial geological department in the US dedicated to the “winning of oil from the Earth” (1897, Southern Pacific Railroad).
• There were 73 charter members of the HGS when it was founded in 1923, including E.T. Dumble and other petroleum geoscience legends such as Alva Ellisor (who became the society’s first vice-president), Everett DeGolyer, Sidney Powers, and Wallace Pratt (“Where oil is first found, in the final analysis, is in the minds of men.”)  Seven of the 73 charter members were women, all of whom were paleontologists.
• The first major task of HGS was to organize and run the 9th annual meeting of the AAPG which was held in Houston in 1924 and had 310 attendees and 91 presentations.  All 91 papers were related to salt diapirs and ended up being published in the very first AAPG special volume (Powers, 1926).
• Technical presentations at HGS meetings commenced in 1929.  Just as today, talks given in those early days of the society were focused both on local, Gulf Coast geology (e.g. Deltaic Coastal Plain Character of Southeastern Texas, D.C. Barton, 26 November 1929) and geologic topics from many parts of the world (e.g. The North Germany Salt Dome Basin, J. Brian Eby, 1 February 1933).
• By the end of World War II, the HGS had become the largest local geological society in the world-- which it has remained to the present day.
By the way, don’t forget to attend this month’s HGS Scholarship Night dinner meeting at the Norris Center on the 10th.  It promises to be a great evening, first and foremost to honor the 2019-2020 scholarship recipients from HGS’s Foundation Fund and Calvert Memorial Fund.  I will also be introducing the slate of candidates for the 2020-2021 HGS Board.  And as a special feature, newly minted NASA astronaut and geologist Dr. Jessica Watkins will be our guest speaker.  Hope to see you there!
Ellisor, A.C., 1947, Rockhounds of Houston: An Informal History of the Houston Geological Society:  Houston Geological Society, 99 pp.
Powers, S. (ed.), 1926, Salt Dome Oil Fields: AAPG Special Volume 1
Pratt, W.E., 1952, Toward a Philosophy of Oil-Finding: AAPG Bulletin vol. 36, no. 12, p. 2231-2236.