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Taylor, Hugh Pettingill, Jr. (Geochemist)



  • Existence: 1932 - 2222


Background: Caltech Professor of Geology, 1959-2002; Executive Officer for Geology, 1987-1994; Caltech alumnus (BS, 1954; PhD, 1959). Professor Emeritus, 2002.


Description: Hugh Taylor was raised in Arizona and New Mexico and attended Caltech as an undergraduate. His bachelor's degree (1954) was one of the first two awarded in geochemistry. After earning a master's at Harvard (1955), Taylor returned to Caltech to work on oxygen-isotope ratios with Samuel Epstein; he received his PhD in 1959. His application of oxygen-18/oxygen-16 ratios to the study of magmatic intrusions, especially Iceland's Skaergaard intrusion, led to a new understanding of hydrothermal convection and the effects of meteoric groundwater (essentially, rainwater) on basaltic intrusions. He has carried out stable isotope chemical analyses of igneous and metamorphic rocks at sites worldwide including the Peninsular Ranges Batholith, the Bishop Tuff (California), Oman's Semail Ophiolite, the Red Sea Rift Zone, Alaska, and at various European locations. In 1981 Taylor became the first recipient of the Robert P. Sharp professorship.


Collection Notes: Oral history, 2006. This extensive 194-page interview with Shirley K. Cohen was recorded in 2002. It includes a detailed discussion of his application of oxygen isotope ratios to studies of various geologic formations around the world. He also discusses the analysis of lunar materials at Caltech collected under the Apollo programs and his friendship with astronaut-geologist Harrison ("Jack") Schmitt (Caltech BS 1957). He details the history of Caltech's geology program and its evolution from a classical, field-oriented geology department to a first-rank division incorporating geophysics, geochemistry, and planetary sciences.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Hugh Taylor Oral History Interview with Shirley K. Cohen [sound recording], 2002-06-20 - 2002-07-23

Scope and Contents An interview in eight sessions in the summer of 2002 with Hugh P. Taylor, Robert P. Sharp Professor of Geology, emeritus, in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. In this wide-ranging interview, Dr. Taylor recalls his upbringing in Arizona and New Mexico, where his father was an agent for the Santa Fe Railroad; his move to Southern California; and his undergraduate education at Caltech. After receiving his BS at Caltech in geochemistry in 1954 (he was one of the first two...
Dates: 2002-06-20 - 2002-07-23