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Guide to the Papers of Richard E. Stoiber, 1911 - 2001

Manuscript ML-98

Biography & History


Richard Edwin Stoiber was born on January 27, 1911, in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised in South Orange, New Jersey. He graduated from Dartmouth with the class of 1932, where he majored in geology. He received his Ph.D. in economic geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1937. He began his teaching career at Dartmouth in 1935, and with the exception of 5 years' service to his country during WWII, never left. He was named Frederick Hall Professor of Mineralogy in 1971.

His Ph.D. thesis, Genetic Significance of Minor Elements in Sphalerite , was later improved and adapted as Minor Elements in Sphalerite , and was published as a paper in "Economic Geology" in 1940 to much acclaim. Professor Stoiber was a pioneer in the field of trace element geochemistry as applied to ore deposits. He popularized the optical spectrograph as an analytical tool for studying minerals. While serving in the U. S. Army he worked in the Quartz Crystal Program of the Army Signal Corps, assisting in the search for high grade quartz crystals to be used in the control of radio frequencies. This experience led him to study and publish papers on quartz crystal deposits, and to study and publish papers on mineralizing solutions in the Picher Field of Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as research in the general fields of mineralogy and geochemistry.

His interest in the origin of mineral deposits led him, rather late in his career, to the study of volcanoes. By the early 1960's he decided that instead of studying the end result of mineral formation, he would study the origins of the formation of minerals, and the study of volcanoes provided a new direction for his career.

He spent much of his later career studying volcanoes, their fumaroles and sublimates, in Central America, specifically in Guatemala and El Salvador, and to a lesser extent throughout the world, mentoring a large group of enthusiastic students. In the mid-1960's he began organizing term-long trips to Central America for third-year Earth Science classes to study the geology of volcanoes. These trips were called "stretches", and are credited with invigorating the Geology major, and popularizing the field of volcanology.

Stoiber created an early textbook for his students on optical crystallography, an important aspect of mineralogy. It was mimeographed and covered in orange paper and became known as the "orange pumpkin." Over the years he worked with a former student, Stearns A. Morse, DC 1952, and together they created the textbook, Microscopic Identification of Crystals , (1972), later re-edited as Crystal Identification with the Polarizing Microscope (1994), from this original work. Also, with the assistance of several students, he developed the 'ratio correlation spectrometer' for analyzing gas emissions from a distance. This has proved to be an exceptionally useful tool in studying and predicting volcanic eruptions.

Over his many years of teaching at Dartmouth, (and he did not retire after his formal retirement from the College in 1976,) it is estimated that he taught over 700 students, with over 500 of them experiencing the "stretches" to Central America. At age 69 he traveled to the just-erupted Mount St. Helens volcano, with several papers resulting. At age 78, he wrote a history of the Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, and at age 84, he was instrumental in creating the "Electronic Volcano" web page, an informative source on volcanoes worldwide. He continued to teach part-time until 1989.

Professor Stoiber was a Life Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, the Geological Society of America, and Sigma Xi. He was a member of the Society of Economic Geologists, the American Institute of Mining Engineers, the American Association of Geology Teachers, the Geochemical Society of Japan, the American Geophysical Union, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, and the Explorers Club. In 1971, a newly discovered rare volcanic mineral of the copper vanadate family (Cu5-V2-O10) was named "Stoiberite" in his honor.

He married the former Edna Howley in 1941. She was his greatest helpmate, often traveling with him on his later sojourns to the world's volcanoes. They had two children. She predeceased him in 1998. Richard Edwin Stoiber passed away February 9, 2001, shortly after celebrating his 90th birthday.