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.