Israel Charles White made significant contributions to the knowledge of the geology of the oil, gas, and coal reserves of the Appalachian Basin. He devised the “anticlinal theory” of oil and gas accumulation and made his fortune drilling the anticlines.
White’s geological experience began with the Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania and continued with the U.S. Geological Survey through 1888. Concurrently, he served as Professor of Geology at his alma mater, West Virginia University. He invested heavily in oil leases, coal, and real estate, and his work as a consultant paid handsomely; thus making him a millionaire. In 1897, he served as a delegate to the prestigious International Geological Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia.
He was appointed State Geologist of West Virginia in 1897, and served in that capacity, without pay, until his death 30 years later. He initiated topographic and geologic mapping for the entire state; the outstanding maps and accompanying text are still in use today. He developed a statewide mineral resources map and worked on over 200 maps and publications that dealt with petroleum and coal in the Appalachians.
While serving as Chief Geologist for the Brazilian Coal Commission from 1904 to 1906, he evaluated that country’s oil and coal reserves. In 1908, by special request of President Theodore Roosevelt, he spoke at the White House to the Conference of Governors on the Conservation of Natural Resources. His topic was “The Waste of Our Fuel Resources.”
Israel C. White, one of the original founders of the Geological Society of America, contributed significantly to that organization through his dedicated service as Treasurer, Councilor, First Vice President and finally President. His incomparable contributions to science and mining rest in the promoting of knowledge and understanding with regard to Appalachian coals and hydrocarbons.