Skip to main content

Hollis Hedberg papers

Call Number: RH MS 546


Hollis Dow Hedberg was a world famous geologist who would become Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. The majority of this collection relates to his work for the Gulf Oil Corporation in various capacities in Venezuela and later in their corporate offices.


  • Creation: 1903-1988


Language of Materials

The majority of the collection is in English; some material in Spanish, German, and French.

Conditions Governing Access

These materials are stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) no less than three days in advance of a planned visit. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Hollis Dow Hedberg

Hollis D. Hedberg was born in Falun, Saline County, Kansas on May 29, 1903, during the 1903 flood. He was the son of Carl August Hedberg, a Swedish immigrant, and Zada Mary Dow, and the middle of the couple's three children.

In 1920 Hedberg began attending the University of Kansas, initially planning to major in journalism but soon shifting his scholarly interests to geology. His studies interrupted by his father's death, Hedberg eventually graudated with a bachelor's in 1925. After serving two summers as a field assistant with the Kansas State Geological Survey in 1924 and 1925, Hedberg earned his masters in geology from Cornell University in 1926.

Hedberg joined the Lago Petroleum Company, a Venezuelan subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company, in 1926, working in Maracaibo and elsewhere in the country. Within a couple years Venezuelan Gulf Oil, a subsidariy of Gulf Oil Corporation, hired him to work in their geological laboratory in Maracaibo.

After working several years in Venezuela as a stratigrapher, he earned his doctorate in 1937 from Stanford University. Hedberg continued thereafter to climb the ranks in Gulf Oil's Venezuela operations, by 1939 becoming assistant chief geologist in charge of all operations in Eastern Venezuela and in 1945 becoming assistant chief geologist in charge of all Venezuelan operations.

In 1946 Hedberg was appointed chief geologist of the Foreign Exploration Division of Gulf Oil, overseeing all geological activities in foreign countries except Canada and Venezuela. He moved his family to New York City at that time, and in 1951 he was again promoted to exploration manager in the same division. He spent several weeks exploring petroleum potential in West Africa and negotiated concession agreements with Nigeria and Cabinda on behalf of Gulf Oil. In 1952 Hedberg became chief geologist for Gulf, responsible for all of the company's geological activities around the world, and he moved his family to a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania.

Hedberg retired from Gulf Oil in 1968 as a vice president, several years after he planned. In 1959 he had already accepted a part-time position as professor of geology at Princeton University. He continued teaching at Princeton until 1972, when he retired and received professor emeritus status.

In the 1960s Hedberg became increasingly interested in ocean geology and the related issues of international-national boundaries and ownership of mineral resources underwater. He also published on the history of geology.

Hedberg held membership and positions of leadership in a variety of professional organizations and on international committees, including with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), Geological Society of America (GSA), American Commission on Stratigraphic Nomenclature, International Subcommission on Stratigraphic Classification (ISSC), the American Geological Institute (AGI), and the National Academy of Sciences, amongst others. Much of this work, particularly as chairman of the ISSC, led to internationally agreed-upon terminology and procedures in stratigraphy and other aspects of geological work. Hedberg received numerous awards, including from the government of Venezuela, University of Kansas, AAPG, Geological Society of London, GSA, National Academy of Sciences, and from the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

In 1932 Hedberg married Frances Murray, and together they had five children: Ronald, James, William, Franklin, and Mary Frances. Hollis D. Hedberg died on August 14, 1988.


101 Linear Feet (101 boxes + 1 oversize box)

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection relates to Hollis Hedberg's career and associated activities. The collection contains files he maintained while in the employment of Lago Petroleum, Venezuelan Gulf Oil, Mene Grande Oil Company, Gulf Oil Corporation, and Princeton University. Most of these files consist of notes and correspondence.

There are also files containing information for his own published papers, research conducted for groups and organizations, as well as research on his translated editions of geological history.

Hedberg maintained journals with notes on his observations when traveling or on-site for specific projects. The collection also contains seafloor maps and maps for specific regions pertaining to projects Hedberg dealt with.

Physical Location

RH MS 546

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Mrs. Frances Hedberg, 1989 and Larry Dekker, 2020.

Guide to the Hollis Hedberg Collection
Hollis Hedberg papers
Finding aid prepared by sh, 2006. Finding aid revised by cmp, 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Hollis Hedberg papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 546, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States