Dr. Lehi F. Hintze, Geologist Extraordinaire

By Jon K. King

Lehi Ferdinand Hintze was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of Utah born-and-raised geologist Ferdinand F. Hintze, Jr. His family moved to Salt Lake City after the stock market crash in 1929. He began his studies at the University of Utah (U of U) as a chemistry major but graduated with a degree in geology, taking physical geology from his father. World War II intervened after he had begun graduate study in geological engineering at the U of U, but service in the Army was balanced by marriage and children. After his service, he decided to “…try to become a college professor like Dad. It looked like easy work.”

Like his father, Lehi earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York City, beginning graduate school on the GI bill in the fall of 1946. In the summer of 1947, the foundation for his life’s work was laid when his father, recently retired from the U of U, took him to look at Ordovician strata near Ibex, an abandoned ranch in the Barn Hills southwest of Delta in Utah’s Millard County. They collected trilobite and brachiopod fossils and measured a section for a possible Ph.D. topic. Going home through Marjum Canyon, his father casually remarked that someday Lehi might map the geology of the House Range, a notion that Lehi regarded as “… highly unlikely, if not ridiculous.” Because Marshall Kay, one of Lehi’s professors at Columbia, was interested in Ordovician stratigraphy, the Ibex fossils became the basis for his graduate study. In 1948, Lehi completed a master’s degree, making preliminary identifications of the fossils collected near Ibex.

In the summers of 1948 and 1949, Lehi returned to measure and sample fossiliferous Ordovician strata at numerous locations in western Utah and eastern Nevada, and began writing descriptions of them for his doctoral dissertation at Columbia, completed in 1951. This work was published by the Utah Geological and Mineralogical Survey in 1951 and 1952.

From the fall of 1949 to the summer of 1955, Lehi taught geology at Oregon State University. Lest you think Lehi frittered away his time in Oregon, he had more children, published his first geologic quadrangle map (Mitchell, Oregon), and made the first complete geologic map of the state of Oregon.

Fortunately for Utah, Lehi left Oregon in 1955 to teach at Brigham Young University (BYU) for the next 30 years. With his experience assisting in teaching field camp at Oregon State, Lehi was assigned to teach the BYU geology summer field course; this was also an assignment typical for the newest member of a geology department. At this time the director of the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey, Arthur Crawford, envisioned a bulletin on the geology of Millard County and asked Dr. Hintze to prepare one, giving him copies of the then-new 1:250,000-scale Army Map Service (AMS) topographic maps on which to compile the geology. So the bulletin (see companion story) took far longer to complete than either man imagined.

Between 1956 and 1979, under Lehi’s tutelage, more than 600 BYU geology students mapped small parts of Utah for their field course requirement for graduation. As Lehi worked out the geology of the Fish Springs Range, House Range, Confusion Range, Barn Hills, Cricket Mountains, Burbank Hills, Tunnel Spring Mountains, Mountain Home Range, and northern Wah Wah Mountains, the small maps were vetted, combined, and released from the BYU Geology Department in 1958-60; later versions were open-filed and published by the Utah and U.S. geological surveys, mostly in the 1970s and 80s. In addition, using the AMS topographic maps as a base, he compiled geologic maps of southwestern and southeastern Utah that were later published by the Utah State Land Board in 1963 and 1964. Starting in 1967 and continuing through the 1970s, Dr. Myron Best shared the responsibility for the BYU summer field course and was coauthor with Lehi on several quadrangles published by the U.S. Geological Survey. This field-course mapping focused on bedrock and, in mapping 57 1:24,000-scale quadrangles, covered about 75 percent of the bedrock area exposed in Millard County. Lehi also mapped, with others or on his own, another 30+ 1:24,000-scale quadrangles in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona (for example, several quadrangles west of St. George). Along the way Lehi found time to consult (about one job per year), lead field trips, compile the Geologic Map of Utah at 1:500,000 scale, compile and rework the Geological Highway Map of Utah, write, rewrite, and update the Geologic History of Utah, co-write a historical geology textbook, co-edit the Journal of Paleontology for three years, edit at least 3 and write or co-write about 15 papers for geologic guidebooks, submit 20+ abstracts, write or cowrite 10+ papers with international significance and 7 or more shorter papers on paleontology and stratigraphy, and write or co-write at least 5 papers on other geologic topics.

In 1986, when Lehi retired from teaching at BYU, he was hired by the director of the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey (now UGS), Genevieve Atwood, to work half time on producing the Millard County geological bulletin that Arthur Crawford had suggested in the 1950s. Lehi spent the next six years field mapping and preparing over 10 new 1:24,000-scale quadrangles for publication. His work then shifted to preparing, with Fitzhugh Davis working on the surficial deposits, the four 1:100,000-scale geologic maps of Millard County and the text of the bulletin. In 1997, the maps and bulletin were submitted to the UGS for publication (along with four more 1:24,000-scale quadrangles), and Lehi retired from his “part-time” UGS job. During the review and preparation process, it was decided to add the geology of the non-Millard County portions of the four 1:100,000-scale base maps, to completely map these quadrangles. So Lehi was pressed back into service to finish this additional mapping.

Lehi is still active in geology, sneaking into Nevada to complete the Lime Mountain quadrangle, working on some stray quadrangles in Utah (Little Drum Pass and Mills), and now working on a version of the Geologic History of Utah for the general public.

Survey Notes, v. 36 no. 1, January 2004