Earl William Hart (1927-2016)

Earl W. Hart, surrounded by family, peacefully passed away January 6, 2016 after a long battle with cancer. He was 88 years old.  Earl worked with the California Geological Survey (CGS) for over 40 years and retired December 31, 1994.  He was best known professionally for his pioneering work on the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Program. 

Born in Los Angeles on November 13, 1927, Earl attended Los Angeles High School and was graduated in 1945.  For those who knew Earl best, it probably is no surprise that he was drafted into the military twice.  Just following the end of World War II Earl found himself in a Naval uniform.  Barely 18, he received his draft notice no doubt because of the momentum of the country's draft machine at a time when the armed services were beginning a vast reduction in force.  His naval obligation was short lived and his return to civilian life found him pursuing a degree in geology at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Earl was graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in the summer of 1950.  Not long after graduation, he again received "Greetings" from his local draft board as the Korean War heated up.  It was the Army's turn to mold young Mr. Hart.  The highlight of Earl's military career was his time at Ft. Belvoir, VA where his contributions included designing educational film strips for the Army Corps of Engineers.  He survived his time of service in the Army and in 1954 joined CGS (then known as the California Division of Mines and Geology, or CDMG).  Based in San Francisco, Earl met Donna Jean Olson that same year.  They were married in Portland, OR in 1956 and established their life-long home in Corte Madera, Marin County in 1958.  His wife for 53 years, Donna preceded Earl in death, also succumbing to cancer July 30, 2009. 

Earl's initial assignments with CDMG involved studying mineral resources, including oil and gas, limestone in the Sierra Nevada foothills and the Coast Ranges, and compiling a summary of mines and mineral resources of Monterey County.  Later he spent several years mapping the geology of the Atascadero area.  This work resulted in the publication of CDMG Bulletin 199 Basic Geology of the Santa Margarita Area, San Luis Obispo County, California, published in 1976, as well as a Master's Degree in geology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. 

In 1973, following passage of the Alquist-Priolo Special Studies Zones Act, Earl was assigned as manager of the Alquist-Priolo (A-P) Program.  At that time the program consisted of a group of geologists compiling maps of faults that represented a surface rupture hazard.  Following the 1974 and 1976 releases of Earthquake Fault Zone maps (at that time referred to as Special Studies Zones maps), Earl realized that existing maps were far from adequate for determining which faults were "sufficiently active and well defined."  Earl, usually working with other geologists, developed the technique of mapping active faults based on their geomorphic expression and made sure the technique was applied consistently throughout California.  His work on the A-P Fault Evaluation and Zoning Program raised the awareness of surface fault rupture hazards throughout California.  It also provided a solid base of information that has been used by numerous consulting engineering geologists for site specific studies and by research geologists for regional seismic hazard studies.

Cliff Gray, late District Geologist for CDMG's Los Angeles office, praised the tenacity and depth of Earl's commitment to the A-P Program.  He noted that the program would not have been as effective without Earl's leadership, dedication, and exacting standards.  In June 1992, Earl received the California Earthquake Safety Foundation's Alfred E. Alquist Award for achievement in earthquake safety in California.  Earl's devotion to the highest level of documentation and analysis in fault studies for the A-P Program has resulted in a continuum of CGS geologists who are able to perform surface fault rupture hazard analysis and zoning with those same high standards.

After retirement from CGS in 1994, Earl was back in the San Francisco office the next working day.  His devotion to geology kept him coming back for the next nine years.  During his detailed mapping of active faults statewide, Earl kept coming across fault-like features that he was convinced were gravitational rather than tectonic.  He pursued this research after retirement, obtaining a National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program grant to study this geologic process with co-investigator James McCalpin.  Their study was summarized in a 2002 U.S. Geological Survey technical report titled: Ridge-top Spreading Features and Relationship to Earthquakes, San Gabriel Mountains Region, Southern California.   In addition, Earl published his statewide research on this topic as CGS publication CD-2003-05 – Ridge-Top Spreading in California: Contributions Toward Understanding a Significant Seismic Hazard.  For this publication, the Association of Engineering Geologists presented Earl with their prestigious Holdredge Award for outstanding contributions to the Engineering Geology profession in 2005.

Life was not all work for Earl.  He and Donna traveled extensively throughout North America and spent time in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.  Earl loved to play tennis and did so until the last few years of his life.  He enjoyed bird watching and applied his knowledge of photography to this hobby.  Although a southern California native, Earl closely followed the San Francisco Giants (he named one of his sons for Willie Mays), as well as the Golden State Warriors.  When visiting Earl at home, one was impressed with his gardening ability: fresh herbs and tomatoes were abundant. He grew and processed olives and used his home-grown bounty in cooking, too.  Earl took on some of the volunteer work Donna was involved with, especially his work on the Corte Madera Beautification Committee.  He loved his role as grandfather and enjoyed telling friends and co-workers about his family.  Earl is survived by his brother Dave; his three children: sons William of San Rafael and John of Novato, and daughter Amy of Petaluma; and grandchildren Ben, Ally, and Zoey. 

Earl, your family, friends, and colleagues will miss you.


William A. Bryant and Jerome A. Treiman