William C. Oke
William Correze Colwell "Bill" Oke, prominent California micromounter and Cal Tech curator, was born in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia on September (or October) 17, 1883, the son of Evangeline Allen Matthews and William Correze Oke, a clerk. He attended Beechworth State School, and afterwards worked as a typewriter mechanic. He emigrated to America in 1914, at the age of 31, arriving July 23 aboard the S.S. Ventura and listing himself as a "tourist." After a stint in the U.S. Army he lived in upstate New York for a while, then moved to Los Angeles, California some time around 1923, where he worked as a typewriter salesman and later as a typewriter repairman for the Union Oil Company.
Oke began collecting minerals in 1933, at the age of 50, and went to night school to learn more about the subject, eventually earning a Master's Degree. Following his retirement from Union Oil in 1948 he worked as a volunteer in the Geology Division of the California Institute of Technology for three years before being appointed Curator of Minerals there in 1951. Shortly thereafter he donated his collection of 3,000 carefully labeled and cataloged mineral specimens to the University. He continued in the position of curator until his death 13 years later.
Microminerals were a specialty of his, and he started an informal study group, called the Micromount Society of Los Angeles, which met at each others homes; eventually it grew to become the Southern California Micro-Mineralogists. Bill was a co-discoverer of the new species paulingite and a co-author of the formal description. He served regularly as a competitive exhibits judge at mineral shows, especially those sponsored by the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies, and helped promote interest in micromounting. He also served two terms as President of the MSSC, and a term as President of the Pacific Mineral Society. He built a collection of over 7,000 skillfully mounted micromineral specimens. Following his death in Los Angeles on March 17, 1964, his micromount collection was bequeathed to George Tunnel. Oke was inducted into the Micromounters Hall of Fame in 1989.
WIGHT, Q. (1993) The Complete Book of Micromounting. Mineralogical Record, Inc., Tucson, pp. 208-209.
California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957.
California Death Index, 1940-1997.
U.S. Federal Census, 1930.
California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968, Los Angeles County.
Victorian Births, Deaths, Marriages Index.
The Month at Cal Tech (1951), p. 28.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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