Hunt, 91, Hopkins professor, geologist

C. B.

September 18, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles Butler Hunt, a noted geologist and former Johns Hopkins University professor of geography, died Sept. 3 of heart failure at his Salt Lake City home. The former Baltimore resident was 91.

Mr. Hunt's career with the U.S. Geological Survey began in 1930 and lasted until 1961, when he accepted a teaching position at Hopkins.

The tall, lanky Mr. Hunt's work took him into the remote reaches of the Henry Mountains in Utah, Death Valley, the Colorado River and Mount Taylor in New Mexico, where he studied the geology and then painstakingly recorded the information in descriptive texts that were later published and studied by scholars and scientists.

"When I put him on the train at Mount Royal Station after he interviewed for the job at Hopkins and had accepted, he turned to me and said, 'I want you to know, Reds, I've never done a day's work in my life,' " recalled Dr. M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman, a professor of geography at Hopkins.

"He taught courses, wrote books and scientific papers and went out to the Southwest to do geological mapping. This was his idea of 'a day's work,'" Dr. Wolman said, laughing.

Mr. Hunt's lifelong passion spanned the era of mule pack trains and the age of the helicopter.

His work required physical stamina and ingenuity. Once, while studying the remote Henry Mountains during the 1930s, he had to supervise the building of trails so that his mule trains could safely cross the slippery Moenkopi Formation flagstone.

"Tow chains, shovels, muscle and lots of willpower went into keeping his three 1928 Model A Ford pickup trucks operating during the study of the roadless wilderness of Mount Taylor" in New Mexico, reported the Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists.

Dr. Wolman said Mr. Hunt's research projects often took as long as five years to complete.

"These reports went on for hundreds of pages. Every month of field work translated into two months of detailed reporting," Dr. Wolman said. "And they were first-rate stuff and very inspirational."

Mr. Hunt made some quirky discoveries. He found that buried barbed wire could be used to date a site based on the wire's design and year of manufacture.

"Whatever he saw interested him," Dr. Wolman said. "He loved scientific debates and wasn't the least bit reticent about expressing his views and opinions."

A prolific writer, he was the author of the landmark geology texts "Physiography of the United States," "Geology of Soils: An Introduction to the Ground Around Us," and "Surficial Deposits of the United States."

After leaving Baltimore in 1973, he moved to New Mexico, where he taught at New Mexico State University. In 1976, he became visiting scholar at the University of Utah, where he turned his attention to completing the notebooks of Grove Karl Gilbert, a 19th-century geologist.

Charles Butler Hunt was born at West Point, N.Y., and in 1928 earned his bachelor's degree in geology. He did graduate studies at Yale University until he joined the U.S. Geological survey.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Alice Victoria Parker of Gibson Island; a son, Eugene Parker Hunt of Salt Lake City; a daughter, Anne Hunt Casimiro of Missouri; two nieces, Susan P. Morrison of Gibson Island and Amy Woods Paige of Juneau, Alaska; six grandchildren; and 36 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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