William P. Blake
William Phipps Blake was born in New York City on June 1, 1826 and received his Ph.D. from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School in 1852. From 1853 to 1856 he served as official government geologist and mineralogist for the Pacific Railroad Survey in the Far West. Upon completion of this work in 1856, Blake took a position with the government Wagon Road Program. Due to illness and other factors, however, he only completed part of that expedition before returning to New York in October of 1857.
During his travels through western Texas and New Mexico, Blake ran numerous geological traverses, visited mines throughout New Mexico, and made many important geological observations. He rediscovered the ancient turquoise workings at Los Cerrillos, part of the oldest mining district in the United States, and determined that such workings pre-dated the advent of the Spaniards.
Blake is best known as a mining geologist, both in the U.S. and overseas, and published several books and over 200 abstracts and papers. He worked in 15 states and five countries on three continents. Blake made his mark as a chemist, mineralogist and mineral collector, government geologist, journal editor and proprietor, mining engineer and mining consultant (both in the private sector and for the governments of the U.S. and Japan), educator, administrator for various international expositions, and the first (and only) Territorial Geologist for the State of Arizona. His association with every international exposition during his career also provided a unique opportunity for him to travel the world, collect minerals, and serve as one of America's first geological ambassadors.
As Professor of geology, metallurgy and mining, director of the Arizona School of Mines, and Territorial geologist, Blake was the recognized authority on Arizona geology. With a Yale degree and a half-century of experience around the world, he was perhaps the most prestigious faculty member at the University. Among his many notable accomplishments, Blake edited and published the Mining Magazine in the late 1850's, and in 1861 traveled to Japan with another early Arizona geologist, Raphael Pumpelly, to introduce Western technology to the shogunate.
Blake continued to live and work in Tucson until 1910, not slowing down much even after becoming an octogenarian. Tragically, on April 22, 1910 he received word that "Milrock," his country home near New Haven, Connecticut, had burned down in a forest fire, destroying his entire personal mineral collection, the irreplaceable work of a lifetime valued at $10,000 to $20,000 (that was a lot in those days, but its scientific value was incalculable). He returned home to see if anything could be salvaged from the ashes.
A month later, in May of 1910, Blake died in Berkeley, California, four days after receiving an honorary degree from the University of California.
CUNNINGHAM, R. (1991)Arizona's Territorial Geologist: U of A's Professor William Phipps Blake. The Smoke Signal:
Tucson Corral of Westerners No. 55.
DILL, D. (1991)William Phipps Blake: Yankee Gentleman and Pioneer Geologist of the Far West. Journal of Arizona History,32, no. 4.
TESTA, S. M. (2001) William Phipps Blake; practicing geology in the 19th century. GSA Annual Meeting, Session no. 24: Geobiography: Life Histories of Geologists as a Way to Understand How Science Operates.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||William Phipps Blake|
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Blake's label after moving to Arizona to become Director of the new Arizona School of Mines and the first Territorial Gerologist of Arizona.
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Blakes label while living in San Francisco.