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John Alfors Passes Away

John T. Alfors, former Supervising Geologist and Chief Deputy State Geologist, passed away on December 27, 2005. John began his career with the California Division of Mines and Geology (California Geological Survey) in 1960, shortly after receiving his Ph.D. in geology from the University of California at Berkeley, and retired in 1993.

John was born in 1930 in Reedley, California. After getting an A.A. degree from Reedley College in 1950, he attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with a B.A. degree in geology in 1952. From 1952 to 1955, John served in the army and, while stationed at Sandia Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico, worked in the base’s photolithography printing plant. In 1955, John returned to Cal, receiving his M.A. in geology in 1956 and Ph.D. in geology in 1959. While at Cal, he studied under such eminent professors as Adolf Pabst, Charles M. Gilbert, Francis J. Turner, John Verhoogen and Howel Williams. His PhD. Dissertation was on the origin and occurrence of glaucophane-bearing rocks in the Franciscan Complex of the Panoche Valley area of western Fresno County.

After joining the Division of Mines and Geology, John worked in a variety of positions – Laboratory Assistant, Junior Engineering Geologist, Junior Mining Geologist, Assistant Geologist, Associate Geochemist, Associate Geologist, Senior Geologist, and Supervising Geologist. He also served as Chief Deputy Sate Geologist during 1976 and 1977. At various times, John managed the Mineral Resource Development and the Geologic Information and Support Programs. In 1993, the Department of Conservation gave John an award for exceptional achievement during his many years of outstanding management.

One of John’s early jobs in the Division was to identify minerals sent to the San Francisco office by the general public. One unusual specimen was a rock containing a deep red mineral, which turned out to be gillespite (itself identified only in the 1920’s). During subsequent studies of the deposit from which this sample came, John, with Mel Stinson, Bob Matthews, and Adolf Pabst described 7 new minerals.

Throughout his career, John authored and coauthored numerous reports and maps pertaining to California’s diverse geology. He was principal author of the notable CDMG Bulletin 198, Urban Geology Master Plan for California. This bulletin, printed in 1973, was one of the first to address, quantify, and suggest mitigation guidance for a variety of geological hazards in urbanized areas of California, including fault rupture, earthquake shaking, landslides, and loss of valuable mineral resources. The bulletin was instrumental in designing California’s emergency response planning scenarios, and served as a geological hazards planning model for several other state and foreign geological surveys.

As manager of the Division’s Mineral Resource Development Program from 1988 to 1992, John was instrumental in coordinating and sustaining the Division’s highly successful Mineral Land Classification Program which covered much of the California desert, the Sierra Nevada foothills, and significant aggregate resources near urban areas in California. He coauthored several papers describing new California minerals, including muirite and fresnoite. In 1981, in recognition of John’s extensive mineralogical research, a newly identified mineral was named alforsite in his honor by Newberry, Essene and Peacor. John retired from CDMG in November, 1993.

A California Registered Geologist, John was also a fellow of the Geological Society of America and a lifetime fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.

John was an avid gardener (providing much fresh produce to the Davis food bank for many years) and master Chrysanthemum grower, basketball aficionado, mineral enthusiast, computer buff and experienced traveler. John’s help, technical knowledge, guidance, friendly demeanor, and droll sense of humor were much appreciated by all who worked with him.