Dr. John Charles Geyer, an internationally recognized authority for pioneering studies on the origin and treatment of wastewater, radioactive wastes and storm drainage, died Tuesday after a lengthy illness at the Keswick Home. He was 88.
Dr. Geyer was professor of environmental engineering at the Johns Hopkins University from 1937 to 1970, and was chairman of the department of sanitary engineering (now the department of geography and environmental engineering) from 1957 to 1970. He continued as principal research scientist until his retirement in 1976.
"He was a very distinguished engineer who made major contributions in numerous areas of sanitary engineering," said Dr. Gordon "Reds" Wolman, Johns Hopkins professor in the department of geography and environmental engineering.
"His major study on storm drainage and design of drainage inlets is still being requested after 40 years by people from all over the world. It has become the guide."
He came to Baltimore in 1937 to work and study with the renowned Dr. Abel Wolman, the younger Dr. Wolman's father, who was credited with making the world's drinking water safe through chlorination. Abel Wolman established the department of sanitary engineering of the School of Engineering and the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins. He died in 1989.
Dr. Geyer worked with Abel Wolman on numerous engineering studies, including Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s use of the Back River sewage treatment plant's effluent, the development of the Susquehanna River water supply and several studies of the Potomac River.
Dr. Geyer wrote eight books, including "Water Supply and Waste Water Disposal," with Dr. Gordon Fair of Harvard University. For many years, the book was the acknowledged text in the field. He also wrote 18 engineering reports and 39 technical papers.
He was a consultant to about 20 cities and in 1956, working for the World Health Organization, established a department of sanitary engineering at the University of Chile.
A native of Neosho, Mo., he graduated from schools there and after studying at Drury College for several years, he decided to study civil engineering at the University of Michigan where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1931.
He studied and worked with Dr. Fair at Harvard University and in 1933 earned a master's degree and a doctorate in engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in 1943.
In 1934, he moved to the University of North Carolina where he was an instructor and later assistant professor of sanitary engineering. While there he headed a research project that dealt with the discharge of wastewater from Southern textile plants that had moved there from New England.
During World War II, he was stationed in Washington with the Navy Hospital Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. He was discharged at war's end as a lieutenant commander.
A popular professor at Hopkins, he wrote 25 of his papers in collaboration with his graduate students.
"He had a knack of leading a distressed student out of the underbrush in a way that left the wanderer feeling that he had found his way himself -- that he was a pioneer," Charles E. Renn wrote in The Diplomate, the magazine of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.
For many years. Dr. Geyer lived in the Ambassador Apartments in Guilford with his wife of 62 years, the former Dorothy Anderson. Earlier, they restored and lived in an old tenant house on Bosley Road in Cockeysville.
Services are private.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Joellen Armitage of New York City; three sisters, Rebecca G. Henderson of Baltimore, Carolyn G. Bard of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mary Jane G. Voss of Neosho.