Q: State geologist Erasmus Haworth can be credited for helping to identify a massive underground oil deposit in south-central Kansas. The most productive oil field in state history, it has already produced more than 300 million barrels of oil. What’s the name of this oil field that covers 34 square miles?
A: the El Dorado Oil Field
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 served as state geologist.
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. Haworth examined rock samples and determined there was, in fact, no gold. This made him unpopular with those who were promoting the gold fields of western Kansas. Still, Haworth repeatedly used his position as state geologist to warn residents against investing in phony zinc and gold deposits. While politically influential promoters threatened to have him fired from KU, Haworth was eventually vindicated.
Haworth also gets credit for helping to identify a massive underground oil deposit in south-central Kansas. The El Dorado Oil Field was discovered in 1915. By 1918, it was the largest single field producer in the USA, responsible for nearly 13 percent of the nation's oil production. The El Dorado Oil Field Haworth helped identify has been the most productive in state history, producing about 300,000,000 barrels to date. Today, a KU campus building - Haworth Hall - stands as a tribute to this man.