John P. Buwalda
Caltech lost the grand old man of its geology department, and the world at large lost one of its best structural and engineering geologists on August 19th, 1954. He was 67.
Dr. Buwalda came to Caltech in 1925 to organize the Division of Geological Sciences. He assembled the staff, worked out the instruction and research programs in geology, paleontology, and geophysics, and supervised the design and construction of the Charles Arms and Seeley W. Mudd Laboratories on the 'campus.
Born in Zeeland, Michigan, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1912. After he received his doctorate there in 1915, he remained for two years as an instructor in geology, then transferred to Yale University as an assistant professor of geology. In 1921 he returned to Berkeley as an associate professor and stayed until 1925, when he came to Caltech.
Dr. Buwalda served as chairman of the Caltech Division of Geological Sciences until 1947, when he resigned to devote more time to research in structural geology. He continued with his teaching duties, however,
in addition to teaching, he had a distinguished career as a consulting geologist. He conducted the geological surveys for the dams and tunnels of the Colorado River Aqueduct of the Metropolitan Water District in southern California. He served as a consultant to the State Highway Division on the seismic safety of the San Francisco East Bay Bridge, and for 30 years, he worked to convince the California public of the necessity of earthquake-resistant construction methods.
For many years he served on the board of expert advisors for the National Park Service, as a consultant to the U. S. Geological Survey, and as a research associate of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. From 1951 to 1953, he was president of the Seismological Society of America.
"For 40 years," said Robert P. Sharp, then chairman of Caltech's Geology Division, "John Peter Buwalda has been a major figure among geologists on the Pacific Coast. His distinguished career has combined education, administration, scientific work, and public service.
"Through his work on earthquakes and as an engineering geologist on numerous large construction projects, he has made a major contribution to the development and growth of the southern California community. The great sense of loss felt by his family, colleagues, students, and many friends and associates, is partly offset by the satisfaction derived from a review of his many accomplishments."