Vernon J. Hurst
First Head of the Department of Geology
of the University of Georgia

        Vernon James Hurst was born in 1923 in Glenmore, Georgia, in Ware County in the Atlantic Coastal Plain.  During World War II, he served in the 97th U.S. Infantry Division, seeing combat in Europe and serving in the occupation of Japan.  After the war, he received his B.S. in Geology from the University of Georgia and an M.S. from Emory University in Atlanta.  He then went on to The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he studied under Ernst Cloos and worked with Hatten S. Yoder Jr. at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.  His dissertation, submitted in 1955, was on "The Stratigraphy and Structure of the Mineral Bluff Quadrangle" and thus dealt with the area where Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina meet near the Ducktown copper mine.

        Dr. Hurst was hired by the University of Georgia in 1961 to be head of its new Department of Geology, which was split off from the Department of Geography that year.  At his arrival, he was not the most senior professor in the new Department of Geology; Charles Salloti, John Hoyt, and perhaps others had served in the Department of Geography prior to the split.  One might thus ask why an outsider with regard to University experience was brought in to be head of the new department.  One answer might be that the University wanted a head with strong ties to Georgia: Dr. Hurst was a native of Georgia, he was a graduate of the University of Georgia, he had worked with and/or published with the Geological Survey of Georgia, and he had a strong commitment to the study of the geology of Georgia.


Dr. Hurst

        With regard to Georgia geology, Dr. Hurst was author or co-author of the following diverse but incomplete sampling of publications on the geology of Georgia and the surrounding region:

Gold in east-central Georgia
Significance of crystallite size and habit determining origin
        and industrial applications of Georgia kaolins
Commercial kaolins in Georgia; occurrence, mineralogy, origin, use
Manganese deposits of the Cartersville and Cave Springs districts, Georgia
Unusual minerals in Georgia
Geology of the southern Blue Ridge belt
Origin of Amphibolites in the Cartersville-Villa Rica Area, Georgia
Geochemical Study of Alluvium in the Chattahoochee-Flint Area, Georgia
Subsurface 'basement' rocks of Georgia
Lithiophorite from Hall County, Georgia
Metamorphism and structure of Ocoee rocks along Ocoee Gorge in Southeastern Tennessee
Strontium-barium content of Georgia carbonates
Monazite-bearing pegmatites in the South Georgia Piedmont
Oil tests in Georgia

        Dr. Hurst was also author or co-author on more general papers with titles like

Staurolite twinning, in Mineralogical Magazine in 1956
Phosphorus in granitic rocks of North America,
        in the Geological Society of America Bulletin in 1964
Brazil-Gabon link supports continental drift, in Science in 1969
Regional variation in the cell dimensions of metamorphic quartz,
        in American Mineralogist in 1981
Effects of secondary iron phases on kaolinite 27Al MAS NMR spectra,
        in Clays and Clay Minerals in 1998
A more complete list of Dr. Hurst's publications, as well as a record of his many other contributions, can be found in Dr. Hurst's vita.

        Dr. Hurst's perspective on geologic problems extended from the large scale (as his paper with Gilles Allard on plate tectonics in Science indicates) to field scale (as his book on Saprolite mapping and his geologic mapping in Georgia attest) to the microscopic.  With regard to the latter, he was an early advocate of transmission electron microscopy, especially in clay miineralogy.  Even after his retirement, he pushed new electron microscopes to their limits, and his office as an emeritus professor was strategically located in Barrow Hall near the electron microscopes of UGA's Center for Advanced Ultrastructural Research.  His ground-breaking research in clay mineralogy led the Clays Minerals Society to name him one of their Pioneers in Clay Science in 2003.


Dr. Hurst working at an electron microscope in Barrow Hall on the UGA campus in the late 1980s.

        Dr. Hurst was Head of the Department of Geology from its founding in 1961 until 1969, when he handed off the headship to fellow Johns Hopkins Ph.D. Gilles Allard.  He was also Chairman of the Physical Sciences Division of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences for five years and a University Research Professor for twenty-two years.  Despite his retirement in about 1991, he was active in the Department for more than a decade thereafter, in part working on a book about weathering, and he was a regular figure in the front row of Room 200A GG at the Department's "Journal Club" seminar series.  He died in July, 2006, just a few days after his eighty-third birthday.


The monument to Dr. Hurst mounted outside the office of the Department of Geology of the University of Georgia in Spring 2010.


W.W. (Bill) Barker's obituary of Vernon James Hurst in Elements, vol. 2, no. 6, in December 2006.


Back to A History of the University of Georgia Department of Geology
Back to the chronological list of UGA Geology faculty members.

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