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A Passion For Gold

An Autobiography

Ralph Roberts

Publication Year: 2002

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvii

Although Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass was written as children’s fantasy, it fits nicely into the study of geology. Geology is not a precise science but requires a great deal of imagination and ingenuity. So, I have used quotes from Carroll’s books, as well as from his poem...

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1. Geology 101: Nevada Gold and Mountain Building

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pp. 1-11

Gold, the metal of exquisite beauty, has intrigued ancient and modern man alike.
If ancient man found crystals of gold, probably in quartz veins that are sometimes exposed in mineralized areas, he might have fashioned primitive jewelry by stringing the crystals on a thong...

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2. The Early Years, 1911–1939

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pp. 12-27

The Palouse country in southeastern Washington State is known for deep, rich soil that produces abundant crops. The undulating grasslands called the Palouse Hills were sculpted about ten thousand years ago during the Wisconsin glacial age when loess, soil carried by the...

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3. Sonoma Range, 1939–1942

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pp. 28-39

While I was working in the field, cresting the ridge was always important to me, for then I could take a breather, and look ahead across the valley. It generally happened about midday; then I would have lunch and plan the afternoon. ...

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4. The Antler Orogeny

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pp. 40-54

The Battle Mountain Range in the Antler Peak quadrangle gave us critical clues concerning the geologic framework of Nevada. It contained clear-cut evidence of a late Paleozoic orogeny that had played a major role in the distribution of the rocks and control of gold deposits throughout the region. ...

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5. Mineral Deposits of Central America

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pp. 55-67

Foster Hewett’s strategic minerals program was extended to Latin America during the early 1940s. In late 1942 I was asked to go to Central America to work under the Board of Economic Warfare, one of the new units in the Department of State, to procure certain strategic materials for the war effort. ...

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6. Military Geology

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pp. 68-72

The USGS was deeply involved in World War II. Survey geologists served as technical advisors, provided special reports and maps, and worked as consultants to field operations.
Early on, the question was raised: Should USGS geologists be commissioned as officers in the...

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7. Postwar Washington, D.C., and the Defense Minerals Exploration Program: Salt Lake City USGS, 1950–1954

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pp. 73-79

After World War II ended in the fall of 1945, I was transferred back to the Metals Branch, which was then being run by Olaf Rove. Although I was itching to get back into the field, Olaf asked me to help reorganize the branch’s manuscript processing unit. I would be allowed a few months away...

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8. Eureka County, 1954–1965

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pp. 80-105

Any geologist or prospector could have discovered a major gold deposit in the Carlin Belt prior to the 1960s, but I am glad that the discovery waited until I and Newmont Mining Company geologists came along! ...

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9. The Oquirrhs: Bingham Copper-Gold Project, 1954–1971

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pp. 106-117

In the center of the Oquirrh Mountains, just twenty miles southwest of Salt Lake City, is a huge open pit that stretches more than a mile from side to side and plunges more than six hundred feet from rim to floor. The mine has yielded impressive amounts of base and precious metals...

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10. Life in Saudi Arabia, 1971–1978

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pp. 118-131

In December 1971, I joined a thirty-man USGS mission in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. There were also British, French, and Japanese teams, but ours was the largest group. The French were assigned to study ore deposits and map the northern part of the Arabian Shield, and we were assigned to...

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11. Ophir: Mahd adh Dhahab, "Cradle of Gold"

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pp. 132-154

Soon after I arrived in Jiddah, Conrad began planning trips to show me some of the ore deposits. We first went north to visit the projects being carried on by the French mission, who were studying Precambrian rocks. We were flown to the northern part of the Arabian Shield in a De Haviland...

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12. Dreams Turned to Ashes, 1960–2000

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pp. 155-164

We were happy in California through the 1950s and 1960s. We built a small apartment house near the business district of Palo Alto; the boys finished high school and went off to college. Michael and Steven married in the late 1960s and continued their studies in graduate school, finishing...

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13. VEKA

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pp. 165-172

After forty-four years and eleven months with the USGS I finally retired in 1981. I was only seventy years old and was certainly not ready to hang it all up. I wanted and needed to be productive. I had been planning my move to industry for some time. I had completed final reports on my work...

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14. Consulting, 1986–1994

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pp. 173-185

Some geologists use witchcraft, forked sticks, and pendulums to find ore, but I and my associates do it a more sensible way—we determine where ore might fit in the geologic framework, then we explore that area. ...

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15. Mij

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pp. 186-193

How do two souls unite after sixty-four years apart? It is simply this mysterious universe around us.
In the spring of 1992, I received news that would have a profound effect on my life. I was visiting my sister Margaret in our hometown of Omak, Washington, and she had heard from friends that Marjorie Courtright Ogden...

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16. Epilogue

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pp. 194-197

The Geological Survey was my life for almost half a century. When I joined the USGS in 1939 it was a small, tight network of dedicated scientists with the freedom to select and carry out unique research projects, so long as they fit into the overall program. ...

Appendix: Background on the Men of the USGS

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pp. 199-209


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pp. 210-213


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pp. 214-222


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pp. 223-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780874175851
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874175028

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 68 b/w illustrations, 12 maps
Publication Year: 2002

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Subject Headings

  • Roberts, Ralph Jackson, 1911-.
  • Geologists -- United States -- Biography.
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