Historical Sequence of Organizational Names
Topographical and Geological Survey of Louisiana, 1869-1872
Geological and Agricultural Survey of Louisiana, 1892-1902
Geological Survey of Louisiana, 1903-1909
Louisiana Soil and Geological Survey, 1914-1919
Bureau of Scientific Research, Department of Conservation, 1931-1934
Louisiana Geological Survey, 1934-present
Historical Sequence of Organizational Directors
Peter V. Hopkins, 1869-1872
Otto Lerch, 1892-1893
William W. Clendenin, 1894-1897
Gilbert D. Harris, 1899-1909
Frederick E. Emerson, 1914-1919
Cyril K. Moresi, 1931-1940
John Huner, Jr., 1940-1946
Paul Montgomery, 1946
James M. Cunningham, 1946-1947
Gerard O. Coignet, 1947
Leo G. Hough, 1947-197
Harry L. Roland, Jr., 1977-1978
Charles G. Groat, 1978-1990
John E. Johnston III, 1990-1992
William E. Marsalis, 1992-1997
Chacko J. John, 1997-2017
The Louisiana Geological Survey (LGS) had its beginnings in 1869, four years after the Civil War ended, when the Louisiana Legislature named Francis V. Hopkins, a Louisiana State University (LSU) professor, to be the first State Geologist. His primary assistant was Colonel Charles H. Lockett, head of LSU’s Corps of Cadets. They published some of Louisiana’s first geologic reports as well as the first topographical and geological maps of the state. In 1873, LSU being without funds, their pioneering work came to an end.
In 1894, LSU Professor William Clendenin was hired to continue Lerch’s work. He did so for three years, publishing a number of geological, botanical and agricultural works.
In 1899, LSU hired Gilbert D. Harris of Cornell University to study the geology of the state. Until 1909 he and his assistants published numerous maps and reports. He initiated a tradition of cooperative work with the U.S. Geologic Survey that continues to the present day. Once again, a lack of funds caused the work of Harris and his staff to be discontinued.
In 1913, Frederick E. Emerson came to LSU as a Professor of Geology and head of the new Louisiana Soil and Geological Survey, serving in this capacity from 1913 to 1919. Upon his death in 1919, which left LSU without a single geologist, the Survey was abolished.
In 1931 the Louisiana Legislature created the Bureau of Scientific Research of the Louisiana Department of Conservation. This unit, the immediate precursor of the modern LGS, was charged with the scientific study of the natural resources of the state and with the compilation of the resulting data. Cyril Moresi was named as head of this research unit, and he was assisted in his tasks by H.V. Howe, head of the LSU School of Geology.
In 1934, the Louisiana Legislature created the Louisiana Geological Survey, naming Moresi as its first head. Over the next several years, the LGS, headquartered in the Geology Building at LSU, began extensive mapping and research work in Louisiana. The LGS staff included such well-known researchers as Dana Russell, Fred Kniffen, Benjamin Craft, Richard Russell, Harold Fisk, and H.V. Howe.
In 1940 Moresi was removed from office when LSU was reorganized. He was replaced by John Huner, Jr., who instituted a new system of state districts, each with its own district geologist. Huner left the LGS in 1946; after his departure there was a brief period of administrative turmoil. His successor, Paul Montgomery, left the LGS eight months later to join the oil industry, and Montgomery’s successor, James M. Cunningham, left the LGS to do the same thing seven months after that. Following Cunningham’s departure, an LGS cartographer, Gerald Coignet, served as head for three months until some stability could be established.
The turmoil led to the appointment in 1947 of the longest-serving head of the LGS, Leo W. Hough, who had been a geologist with the Louisiana Highway Department. From 1947 to 1973, under Hough’s leadership, the LGS compiled a great many geologic maps and reports while serving as both the geological research arm of the state and as its geologic oil and gas regulatory arm. In 1973, the oil and gas component of the LGS, complete with its staff, became the Geologic Division of the Louisiana Department of Conservation. In 1977, Hough retired after thirty years of service as the head of the LGS.
Upon Hough’s retirement, his assistant Harry L. Roland Jr., perhaps the single most colorful person in the history of the LGS, served as the temporary organizational head for a year while the LGS searched for a new permanent head. During this time the parent organization of the LGS changed from the Louisiana Department of Conservation to the newly created Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
In 1979, Charles G. Groat, who was at that time the Chairman of the Geology Department of the University of Texas at El Paso and who had served as the head of the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, was hired to lead the LGS. Groat then proceeded to hire a number of geologists from the Bureau and the University of Texas – something that gave the LGS a very distinct Texas flavor throughout the 1980’s – as part of his plan to modernize the LGS.
And modernize the LGS Groat did. Under his leadership the LGS expanded dramatically, acquiring new staff as well as modern equipment and technology, and receiving millions of dollars in federal, state, and private grants and contracts. Groat expanded on his role as head of the LGS, serving simultaneously at various times as a junior state cabinet officer and as the head of Louisiana’s Coastal Zone Management Division. Under Groat’s leadership the LGS became involved in virtually every geologic facet of Louisiana and attained national scientific and political recognition. Many new research and regulatory assistance programs were begun; one of these programs, the Coastal Restoration Section of the LGS, has since grown to be a major unit of state government as the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Division. The LGS became a large research organization with offices in several states and with an affiliated research unit at LSU.
In 1990, Groat took a leave of absence from the LGS to serve as director of the American Geological Institute. Groat’s assistant, John E. Johnston III, served as the acting head of the LGS during the years of his absence. In 1992 Groat formally resigned from the LGS, and William E. Marsalis, the Chief Geologist of the Louisiana Office of Mineral Resources, was named to head the LGS.
In 1997, the LGS was administratively transferred by the Louisiana Legislature from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to Louisiana State University, where it had always been housed, and it became a unit of LSU’s Office of Graduate Studies and Research. As Marsalis chose to remain with DNR, Chacko J. John, who had previously served as Director of Research for the LGS and was serving as head of LSU’s Basin Research Institute (BRI), was named to head the LGS. In 2000, the LGS merged with the BRI, which then became the Basin Research Energy Section of the LGS. The LGS is now housed in the Energy, Coast and Environmental Building at LSU, just south of Tiger Stadium, the home of LSU’s Fighting Tigers.
The LGS has provided emergency technical support to the state since the early eighties. When a crisis is imminent, an LGS team is detached from regular duties and reports to the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). LGS emergency support teams have been commended for their emergency, scientific support, mapping, and search and rescue efforts for hurricanes such as Andrew, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, and have been credited with saving lives.