Paul Merifield grew up in Los Angeles. He completed his BA in geology at UCLA in 1954 and his PhD at the University of Colorado in 1963, where he met his wife Ruth, also a geologist. He met Don Lamar while working for Don Michael in 1963-65. In 1970 Paul Merifield began teaching engineering and environmental geology as a Lecturer, and later as an Adjunct Professor at UCLA. He continued teaching part-time for 41 years, until 2011.
Geotechnical Consultants (1964-present)
The firm was founded by C. William (Bill) Schmidt and Russell G. Hood (profiled above as Hood & Schmidt), along with Glenn Brown CEG, Joseph M. Gonzalez, CEG, Ivar Staal, PE, and Joe Montagna, PE. They initially established offices in Burbank and Santa Ana, quickly adding branch offices in Glendale and Ventura. The Burbank office included Chief Geologist Russ Hood, Glenn Brown, Clifford Farrell, Bob Linn, Frank Nevin, and Ramiro Oquita. The Glendale office supported Dennis A. Evans (after 1965), David Bramwell, John S. Fryberger, Merv Johnson, John McCormick, Lowell Rasmussen, Robert T. Misen (from DWR), and William C. Wells. The Santa Ana office included Bill Schmidt, Jack E. Goffman, John Fryberger (moved to Glendale office), Gerry Nicoll, and Robert L. Wells.
In mid-1965 they hired Dennis Evans, PE, CEG (BS GeoE ‘58 Colorado Mines) from LA County as an Associate and Managing Soils Engineer. Schmidt, Goffman, and Evans worked out of the Santa Ana office. For a while Klaus W. John, PhD, PE was their chief engineer (he went on to work for Dames & Moore, then joined the faculty at Karlsruhe University, and later, Ruhr University, in Germany). Other geologists included Bob Linn, CEG (joined in March 1965), Merv Johnson, CEG, and Bob Misen, CEG (who later became a partner, after Hood & Schmidt left). For a few years Joe Gonzales ran a two-man branch office in Ventura, along with George L. Quick, CEG (who later moved back to their Burbank office). After Hood and Schmidt departed California, Gonzalez continued operating Geotechnical Consultants out of Ventura, servicing that region. He later retired to Ross, north of San Francisco. Other geologists who worked for the firm included Dick Slade and Chuck Kendall.
By 1993 Joseph M. Gonzalez, CEG was serving as the firm’s Chief Engineering Geologist, working out of their office in Santa Ana. He then became the firm’s owner, with offices in Glendale, Ventura, San Francisco, or Ohio, depending on the year. In 2014 the firm was still operating from an office in Lake Forest in southern California, managed by James E. Thurber, CEG, CHG (BA Geog ’76, BS Geol ’78 CSUN; MS ’82 Colorado State), and assisted by senior geologist Aurie Patterson, PG (BA Geol ’90 SJSU; MS ’93 SDSU). The firm’s San Francisco office is managed by the present owner, G. ‘Neel’ Neelakantan, PhD, GE (see Northern California threadline).
Evans, Goffman & McCormick (1968-79); Goffman & McCormick (1979-93); Goffman, McCormick & Urban (1993-2005); GMU Geotechnical, Inc (2005-present)
In 1968 Dennis A. Evans, PE, CEG, Jackson E. Goffman, RG, and John J. McCormack, CEG, RGP (all formerly with Geotechnical Consultants) founded the firm of Evans, Goffman & McCormick, based in Santa Ana.
Evans brought conflict of interest charges against James E. Slosson through AEG when Slosson became State Geologist in 1973. Around 1974 Evans split off to form D. A. Evans, Inc. and served as President of SAFEA in 1975-76. He shut that firm down and went to work for Shepardson Engineering Associates of Carlsbad in the early 1990s. He retired to Kilauea on the island of Kauai sometime in the mid-1990s.
Gary Urban, GE (BSCE ’78 CSULB) joined the firm in 1978 and Dennis Evans departed in 1979. In 1993 the firm became Goffman, McCormick & Urban (GMU) based in Laguna Hills, with Gary Urban the sole Principal. The firm provided geotechnical consultations on projects in Rancho Niguel and Rancho Santa Margarita. In 1997 the firm moved to Rancho Santa Margarita and Greg Silver, GE joined as a principal and VP. He later served as President of CalGeo in 2008-09.
In 2005 they acquired Lejman Geotechnical Group (Ron J. Lejman, GE; BSCE ‘62 Illinois; MS CSULB) and added Mike Moscrop, GE as another principal, and the firm became GMU Geotechnical Inc., moving to Rancho Santa Margarita. Bob Mutchnick, CEG, Aron Taylor, CEG and Lisa Bates-Seabold, CEG are their principal geologists. Silver became the firm’s president in 2013 and the principals/owners include: Gary Urban, Greg Silver, Mike Moscrop, and Aron Taylor.
Maurseth & Howe, Foundation Engineers (1953-65); Maurseth-Howe-Lockwood & Associates (1965-72)
Maurseth-Howe was founded by Ray O. Maurseth (RCE 7204) and Charles Howe (RCE 7689) in 1953 and based in Los Angeles. Their first engineering geologist was Joseph F. Riccio, CEG (BA Geol ’50; MS ’51 USC), who went onto found Pacific Soils in 1955 (profiled in USC Threadline). In 1958 they established a branch office in Ventura (described elsewhere). G. Austin Schroter, CEG (BS Geol ’27 Caltech) and R. Bruce Lockwood served as the firm’s consulting engineering geologists between 1955-65 (profiled below). Schroter and Maurseth published an article titled “Hillside stability-the modern approach,” which appeared in the June 1960 issue of Civil Engineering magazine. In 1964 their stationary billed them as “Maurseth & Howe, Foundation Engineers.”
In 1965 they formed a partnership with geologist Bruce Lockwood, the engineering geologist with whom they had been working during the early 1960s. This partnership allowed them easier access to clients in Los Angeles County, where engineering geologists were required to co-sign geotechnical reports. The partnership ended in 1972 when Lockwood formed a new partnership with Awtar Singh (described below).
G. Austin Schroter, Consulting Geologist (1949-60); Schroter and Lockwood, Consulting Mining Engineers (1955-60)
G. Austin Schroter, CEG graduated from Caltech in 1927 with a BS degree in geology, his senior thesis focusing on the geology of the Jawbone Canyon area, north of Mojave. He then attended the University of Arizona, obtaining his Engineer of Mines degree in 1930. That same year he joined Allied Engineers of Los Angeles, a mining engineering and consulting firm. In the late 1930s he moved to the Filtrol Corp., which serviced the oil refining industry with absorbent clay. Around 1949 he founded Stratex Instruments, his own firm. All of these firms were based in Los Angeles. Around 1955 he formed a partnership with R. Bruce Lockwood, named Schroeter and Lockwood, with offices at 3515 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. In 1956 he was named Chairman of the Mayor’s Geological Hazards Committee of Los Angeles. In July 1956 he also secured a contract with the City of Los Angeles to study and report on the landslides plaguing the Pacific Palisades area, which he completed in 1958. Schroeter and Lockwood provided consulting geology services for a number of Los Angeles area firms, including Maurseth & Howe (profiled above). Around 1960 Schroter joined Dames & Moore’s Los Angeles office, as their senior engineering geologist, with emphasis on servicing the aggregates industry.
Lockwood & Cole (1946-49); Lockwood & Associates (1949-65); Maurseth-Howe-Lockwood & Associates (1965-72); Lockwood-Singh & Associates (1972-2000)
R. Bruce Lockwood, CEG (1917-2010) graduated from Caltech with a BS in geology in 1937. After working for Lockheed Aircraft during the Second World War, in 1946 he formed a consulting partnership with economic geologist J. Gordon Cole, based in Los Angeles, making them one of the first geology consulting firms in southern California (Cole had mapped the Boston Valley salt deposits for Basic Magnesium in the Avawatz Mtns during the war). By 1949 Lockwood was also advertising himself as an “engineering geologist” and working out his home in Glendale, on projects across the western US. In the late 1950s G. Austin Schroter and Lockwood formed Schroter and Lockwood, Consulting Mining Engineers (profiled above), who frequently provided consultations for Maurseth & Howe. In 1965 the Lockwood formed a new partnership Maurseth-Howe-Lockwood & Associates. For many years Lockwood operated from an office at 2252 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles. He was assisted by geologists Curtis Wells and John D. Merrill, CEG (profiled below, under GeoPlan) in the early to mid-1960s.
In October 1972 Bruce Lockwood formed a partnership with UCLA soil mechanics Professor Awtar Singh, PhD, GE (profile above under UCLA faculty). The firm remained on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles and their first employee was Curtis Wells. Awtar Singh received his BSCE degree from Punjab Eng’g College in 1949; MSCE from Colorado in 1963, and Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1966. From 1976 to 2000 Russell G. Harter CEG was their principal geologist, assisted by Joshua Feffer, CEG (BS Geol ’92 CSUN; MA ’96 USC). Lockwood-Singh was acquired by Exponent-Failure Analysis, Inc. in October 2000, and Singh remained as a consultant until Oct. 2004. Daniel Pradel, PhD, GE joined the firm in 1989 before leaving to start his own firm in 1997 (profiled below).
Founded in 1964 by John D. Merrill, CEG of Lockwood & Associates, and based in Tarzana. GeoPlan developed specialized expertise for assessing problems in the Santa Monica Mountains area of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, gaining a reputation as determined advocates in appealing the various decisions handed down by the Geotechnical Section of the LA County Public Works Department. From about 1969 to 1985 he was assisted by George Quick, CEG (who came over from Geotechnical Consultants). Between 1964 and 2007, when Merrill retired, he had worked on over 13,000 projects in the Santa Monica Mountains, including more properties in Malibu than any other geologist. Brian Robinson and Bob Sousa share custody of the firm’s old files. Roland Acuna of Strata-Tech purchased GeoPlan’s old phone number, which Roland credits for much of his work!
Praad Geotechnical Consultants (1997-2011)
Founded in 1997 by Daniel Pradel, GE and Glen Raad, GE of Lockwood-Singh & Associates. Offices in west Los Angeles (Culver City) and Fullerton. Chief Engineer was Daniel Pradel, GE (DCE ‘82, Swiss Institute of Technology, Lausanne; PhD ‘87 Tokyo University). He came to the Los Angeles area as a postdoc fellow at UCLA in 1988-89, then joined Lockwood-Singh. The other partner was geotechnical engineer Glen Raad, GE (BSCE ‘86 Arizona; MS ’88 UCLA). After 2001 their Chief Geologist was Rodney Masuda, CEG (BS Geol ‘78, MS ’81 USC). The firm was purchased by Group Delta Consultants in May 2011 (see above), but Raad left Group Delta after a few months. Pradel joined Shannon & Wilson in August 2015.
SGH Consulting Services, Inc (2004-present)
In March 2004, Russ Harter, CEG (BS Geol ’73 CSULA) formed a new firm called SGH Consulting Services, Inc. in Los Angeles. Awtar Singh was listed as a consulting geotechnical engineer to SGH, until he retired in 2010. In the summer of 2011 Glen Raad joined SGH. Russ Harter died in September 2014.
University of Southern California (USC) threadline
Professor Gilbert E. Bailey - Father of the USC geology program (at USC 1909-24)
Professor Gilbert Ellis Bailey (1852- 1924) was born in Pekin, Illinois in April 1852. His father was a Baptist clergyman who taught at the University of Chicago. He worked on railroad surveys along the Red River of the North and on various routes in Michigan, and obtained his Engineer of Mines (E.M.) degree from the University of Michigan in 1873, followed by a BA in geology from the University of Chicago in 1874. He then taught chemistry at the University of Nebraska for two years before enrolling in graduate studies in geology at Chicago, where he received his master’s degree. He then took a position as Professor of Geology at Franklin College, Indiana, completing his PhD at Franklin in 1878, and continuing his studies at the Rochester Theological Seminary in 1879.
In 1883 he moved west to accept the position as Territorial Geologist for Wyoming, where he remained three years. In 1886 he became superintendent of the Etta Mine in the Black Hills, which produced the first tin made from American ore. During the short-lived Ghost Dance Indian uprising of 1890-91 he served on the staff of Army General Nelson A. Miles and acted as a correspondent for the Chicago journal Interocean. The following year he was dispatched by the journal to Central and South America, where, among other things, he investigated one of the largest meteorites discovered up until 1892 (in Bacubirito, Mexico). He also reported on the potential routes for an interoceanic canal across the Nicaraguan Isthmus. In 1893 he served as commissioner for the Geological Department of the Chicago World’s Fair.
From 1894-1901 he appears to have established himself as a consulting geologist and mining engineer, based in Los Angeles. Much of his work was in the Death Valley and Panamint Valley areas, but he also lectured frequently, wrote journal articles, and provided advice to engineering firms developing water resources for agriculture.
In 1909 he accepted a position as Professor of Geology at the University of Southern California, which he held until his death on December 6, 1924. He also consulted in mining engineering work, being listed as a “consulting engineer” in Los Angeles in 1910. By the early 1920’s the geology department was offering five lower division and six upper division courses offered in geology and paleontology at USC. Some of Bailey’s more notable publications included: "Salines of California" (1902); "Origin Place Names in California" (1905); "California Soils" a textbook (1913); "Vertical Farming" (1915); "History and Geology of Arrowhead Springs" (1915); “Nitrating Soils by Inoculating Legumes" (1915); and "Origin and Geology of Hot Springs of California” (1919).
Professor Allen E. Sedgwick, PE (at USC 1918-29) Consulting Engineer and Geologist
Allen Ernest Sedgwick, PE (1881- 1941) was a native Nebraskan who attended the University of Nebraska from 1899-1902, followed by mining studies at the Columbia School of Mines, from 1902-05. After a year working at a mine in Oregon, he spent 1907-12 as a mining and civil engineer working in various parts of Mexico, before moving to Los Angeles in 1912. He found employment as a designing engineer with Noonan & Richards, Architects, in downtown LA. In 1915 he began consulting in geology, mining, water supply, hydroelectric schemes, and flood control. He completed his BSCE degree at USC in 1918, and began teaching geology at USC, while taking geology courses and working on his master’s degree in civil engineering and geology, which he completed in 1919.
In 1920 he began teaching the first course in petroleum geology at USC, and was listed as an assistant professor until 1921, when he was promoted to associate professor of geology, and then to full professor in 1924. The 1921 USC yearbook listed him as a Professor of Mining with B.S., C.E., and M.S degrees from USC. The 1922 university handbook credits him with teaching petroleum geology, blowpipe analysis, and petrology/rock classification.
When Professor Bailey unexpectedly passed away in December 1924, Sedgwick succeeded him as Head of the Department of Geology, which he retained until 1929. That year he took the title of Lecturer, presumably, so he could pursue consulting as an engineering geologist on a number of high-visibility projects (mentioned below). When California enacted engineering registration in 1929 he filed for the title and was granted professional engineer license 3635.
Sedgwick’s first engineering geologic consultation was a secret report for Los Angeles County in 1927 that cast doubt on the suitability of the San Gabriel Dam at the forks site, which was verified in late 1929, when the project had to be abandoned after the county expended more than $2 million excavating the dam’s abutments. Sedgwick listed himself as a “consulting engineer and professor of geology” when he was named to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate failure of the St. Francis Dam in March 1928 (described below, under panels). In 1929 he co-authored a report with retired USGS geologist Robert T. Hill on the Geology of the Hansen Dam site in Tujunga Canyon for the L.A. Co Flood Control District (LACFCD). This was the site that Big Tujunga concrete arch dam was built upon a short while later. In 1931 he was also named to the Mulholland Dam review panel, as well as several other dam safety/investigation panels in the 1930s.
The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power retained Sedgwick to map the geology of the dam and reservoir area of Chatsworth Reservoir in 1931, following damage to the reservoir’s embankments (lateral spreading along a buried sand seam) by the M 5.2 Santa Monica Bay Santa Monica Bay earthquake of Aug 30, 1930. The LACFCD also used Prof. Sedgwick as a geology consultant on the proposed San Gabriel Dam No.1 in 1935 (world’s highest rockfill dam when completed in 1938). Sedgwick also served as Associate Consulting Geologist to the Board of Consulting Engineers for the Golden Gate Bridge, between 1929-37.
In November 1933 Sedgwick was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Education, and named President of the Board on July 1, 1934. He abruptly resigned in January 1935, due to possibility of legal ramifications steming from the LA school system's new $11 million School Reform Program (for upgrades to existing schools). There were apparent conflicts-of-interest, and Sedgwick did not wish to become embroiled in a legal tangle. He later served on the Personnel Commission of the Los Angeles City Schools, between March 1940 and his death in Los Angeles on November 16, 1941, at age 60.
Prof. Thomas Clements, CEG (at USC 1929-63); Consulting Geologist (1954-74); Thomas Clements Associates (1974-96)
Tom Clements, PhD, CEG was born in 1898 in Chicago and grew up in Ysleta and El Paso, Texas. After serving in the Navy during the First World War, he completed his Engineer of Mines degree at the Texas College of Mines (now UTEP) in El Paso in 1922. In 1925 he moved to Los Angeles lead the engineering department at Security Title Insurance & Guarantee Co. In 1927 he enrolled in geology studies at Caltech and completed his master’s mapping the geology in San Francisquito Canyon, shortly before and after the untimely collapse of the St. Francis Dam in March 1928 (he narrowly missed being killed the evening the dam failed).
Shortly after completing his master’s in 1929, Clements joined the geology faculty at USC, and began working on his doctorate at Caltech, which he completed in 1932. In June 1935 he chaired the committee that approved the first PhD dissertation in geology at USC, that of Gordon B. Oakeshott, CEG titled “A Detailed Geologic Section Across the Western San Gabriel Mountains of California”(published by CDM in 1937). In 1937 Clements was named chairman of the geology program, and from that time until his retirement in 1963, at various times he chaired the geology, geography, and petroleum engineering departments at USC. Among his notable achievements was ushering in formalized courses in engineering geology at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
For years he did much of the engineering geology consulting work for L.T. Evans & Associates and Leroy Crandall & Associates. He was one of the first geologists to become an approved engineering geologist by the Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety in 1961. Six months after retiring from USC he was asked to serve on the Board of Inquiry to investigate the Baldwin Hills Reservoir failure by LA Mayor Sam Yorty.
In his retirement he served as a full-time consultant on variety of southern California projects, forming Thomas Clements Associates in the early 1970s, located on North LaBrea Ave. in LA. Tom and his wife Lydia also wrote books about the geology and history of Death Valley. Fellow USC geology Professor Bernard W. Pipkin, CEG worked for Thomas Clements Associates in the 1960s and 70s. Clements died in Santa Monica on May 13, 1996, three weeks shy of his 98th birthday.
Professor Richard Merriam, CEG (at USC 1940-82); Consulting Engineering Geologist
Prof. Richard Holmes “Dick” Merriam, CEG (1912-98) was born and raised on the La Mesita Ranch in San Marcos, in San Diego County, not far from where the family original settled in the Twin Oaks Valley in 1850’s. The nearby Merriam Mountains were named after the family. His parents met when both were teaching in the nearby town of Lilac. They became farmers and one of the reasons Dick decided to attend college was to escape the hard life of farming during the Great Depression. His rearing amongst the plutons and metamorphic rocks of Peninsular Ranges of southern California influenced his professional interests, which centered on that region. He attended Pomona College, majoring in geology and graduated in 1934. He was, first and foremost, a field geologist. Thin and built like a two legged spider, he could out-hike, out-drink, and out-think most geologists of his day.
Dick pursued graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was trained as a mineralogist and igneous petrologist, and few men were his equal with a petrographic scope. He published his first paper in the September, 1936 issue of the American Mineralogist, titled "Two diopsides from Southern California." After Dick received his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1940 he took a faculty position at USC, where much of the geology program’s emphasis was on oil exploration in southern California. His first publication appeared in the May 1941 issue of the American Journal of Science, titled A southern California ring-dike.
Dick ventured into engineering geology during the Second World War, performing summer contract work for the USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, and CDMG. Some of this work in included a comprehensive Report on geology of dam and reservoir sites on the Trinity River for Reclamation in 1947 (these proposed structures were built in the 1960s) and his oft-cited “Alkali-aggregate reaction in California concrete aggregates,” published by CDMG in 1953, which involved considerable petrographic analyses, establishing him as an expert on concrete. His interests in alkali-aggregate reactions also took him to Iraq in 1955 as a Guggenheim Fellow examining concrete placed by the Romans. These contributions led to his becoming one of the first geologists to become an approved engineering geologist by the Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety in 1961.
He continued writing articles about the Southern California Batholith throughout the 1950s. He also made the first modern geologic maps of the State of Sonora, Mexico and conducted cutting edge research on modern Gulf of California tectonics. This work led to his most notable contribution, presented at the 1968 Stanford Conference on Geologic Problems of the San Andreas Fault System. In that article he proposed a right-lateral displacement of the San Andreas Fault near the Mexican border of 200 to 300 miles, based on apparent offsets of Eocene conglomerates.
He taught the engineering geology course and seminar at USC for three decades, from the late 1950s through the early 1990s, and was a long-time member of AEG. He was a frequent consultant to Pacific Soils Engineering in the 70’s and 80’s and lived in Rolling Hills. His most cited contribution was his 1960 article on the Portuguese Bend Landslide, titled “Portuguese Bend Landslide, Palos Verdes Hills, California,” which appeared in the Journal of Geology (v.68:2). It was required reading for all engineering geology students in southern California over the succeeding decades.
Dick Merriam was a friend and mentor to all who passed his door. He possessed the rarest and most useful of human traits: he listened more than he talked. But when he spoke, people listened. He collaborated with A. O. Woodford and Dick Jahns, and served as a mentor and colleague to many of the engineering geology professors in southern California, including: Barney Pipkin, Marty Stout, Barry Haskell, Jim Slosson, and Perry Ehlig. He didn’t marry until age 37 in 1949 (his wife Pat was 26, having recently completed her master’s degree in geology at USC), and they were blessed with a son Robert and daughter Martha (MS Geol ’85 UC Davis), who was an engineering geologist with Caltrans! Pat taught geology at LA Harbor Community College. Dick retired at age 70 in 1982 and returned to San Marcos, where he died of ALS on April 2, 1998.