|Q: In the late 1890s, many Kansans believed there was gold in western Kansas. Prominent Topeka residents even purchased land in Trego and Ellis counties to set up mining operations. But it wasn’t meant to be. A University of Kansas geologist examined rock samples and determined there was, in fact, no gold. (Thanks a lot, science!) What’s the name of this geologist who also led the Kansas Geological Survey?
A: Erasmus Haworth
Geologist Erasmus Haworth was born in Iowa in 1855. Armed with degrees from the University of Kansas and Johns Hopkins University, he taught at various colleges. In 1892, he was appointed professor of geology and mineralogy at KU, where he remained until 1920. He led the Kansas Geological Survey at KU and also served as state geologist.
Haworth shattered the dreams of many treasure hunters when he determined there was no gold in western Kansas, as had been speculated. Among other discoveries, Haworth gets credit for helping to identify a massive underground oil deposit in south-central Kansas. The El Dorado oil field he helped identify has been the most productive in state history, producing more than half a billion barrels of oil, to date. Today, a KU campus building - Haworth Hall - stands as a tribute to this man.