Marion King Hubbert


Marion King Hubbert was born October 5, 1903, in central Texas. He spent his childhood on farms and ranches in Texas and attended Weatherford College, a small junior college nearby, from 1921 to 1923. From there he went to the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. (1926), M.S. (1928), and Ph.D. (1937) in geology and physics. For two years he worked in the southwestern United States as an oil geologist. In 1931, although still working on his doctorate, he began teaching geology and geophysics at Columbia University, while spending his summers exploring for minerals with the Illinois and U.S. Geological Surveys. He would stay with Columbia for ten years.
From 1943 through 1964 King Hubbert worked with the Shell Oil and Shell Development Companies in Houston as research geophysicist and associate director of research. In 1962 he began teaching one quarter each year as visiting professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University. On leaving Shell at the end of 1963 he became Research Geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington but continued his arrangement with Stanford until 1968, when the university’s Board of Trustees conferred upon him the title of Professor of Geology and Geophysics Emeritus. Hubbert also taught briefly on the Berkeley campus of the University of California in the early seventies.
For many years King Hubbert conducted a continuing study of the Earth's mineral and energy resources and their bearing on the evolution, past and future, of our industrial civilization. And although he was most renowned for having predicted an oil shortage some 20 years before it actually occurred, his major contribution to science was undoubtedly his application of physics to geological processes. In 1937 Hubbert resolved a standing paradox regarding the apparent strength of materials that form the crust of the earth, for such rocks, despite their evident strength, often show signs of plastic flow. He demonstrated mathematically that even the hardest of rocks on the Earth's surface, subject to the immense pressures occurring across large areas, will respond in a manner similar to soft muds or clays. In the early 1950s he introduced important revisions in theories about the flow of underground fluids. His research, which demonstrated that fluids can become entrapped under circumstances previously not thought possible, led to a major reassessment of techniques employed to locate oil and natural gas deposits.
As a scientist, King Hubbert applied rigorous physical reasoning to the study of complex geological phenomena. In ground-water hydrology and petroleum geology alone, he opened up entire new fields. And although he would often describe his work as "eminently theoretical," it led, in fact, to eminently practical – and sometimes courageously outspoken – recommendations: drastic societal reforms to conserve mineral resources, and changes in foreign policy toward the oil-producing nations.
Dr. Hubbert wrote more than 70 journal articles and several books on ground water, structural geology, and energy resources, and his achievements brought him many honors. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957; and the presidency of the Geological Society of America in 1962. For his work in geophysics he was awarded the Arthur L. Day Medal of the Geological Society of America in 1954, and in 1973 he received the Penrose Medal of that Society in recognition of his contribution to general geology. He was also the recipient of a Rockefeller Public Service Award from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Princeton University in 1977; of the William Smith Medal from the Geological Society of London in 1978; and of the Elliott Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1981.
Dr. Hubbert died on October 11, 1989.

Adapted from (ARTICLE WRITTEN BY RONALD DOEL ON THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS WEBSITE) and (NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES TRIBUTE TO HUBBERT, "Letter to Members" from the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 19--Number 4, April 1990)