Joseph Hoover Mackin (1905-1968)

MackinHoover Mackin was born on November 16, 1905, in Oswego, New York. He received a BA degree from New York University in 1930. He earned MA and PhD degrees from Columbia University in 1932 and 1937, respectively. Dr. Mackin spent 28 years teaching at the University of Washington. In 1961 the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UT-Austin embarked on the search for a world-class geologist to occupy its first endowed faculty position, the William Stamps Farish Professorship (later Chair). Mackin was appointed as a Visiting Professor at UT-Austin to provide an opportunity for him to get a feel for the department and the Austin community. He liked what he saw and he joined the faculty of the University permanently a year later. Regarded as one of the foremost geologists in the country and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Mackin had numerous research interests. His early work was in geomorphology and his concept of “the graded river” became a mainstay in fluvial geomorphology. He later undertook research in engineering geology, structural geology, and field petrology. Hoover was also involved in the mission to land a man on the moon and was one of four experts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study the first lunar rock samples returned to earth.

Much of Dr. Mackins’s fieldwork was in the arid western part of the US. To the lament of the many ranchers who complained that their once-flowing springs had dried up in recent years, Mackin told them to cut down all trees along their creeks and over much of their ranchland. Owing to the huge amounts of water that trees transpire daily, this was practical advice– but advice contrary to the philosophy of shade-loving people.

Mackin chiefly taught geomorphology and structural geology. His dynamic classroom style was matched by few peers. He would gladly take a guest lecture in a colleague’s class on virtually any geologic subject. He was also the epitome of the absent-minded professor: he twice reported his car stolen from his campus parking lot, whereas he had only parked in a different lot from his usual one. Campus police learned to drive him around campus until his “stolen car” was found. Mackin hid keys to his office in several places in the Geology Building because he could not always remember to bring one, and he was once seen leaving the building wearing two hats.

Professor Mackin supervised four Master’s students and five PhD students during his all too-short time as a faculty member in the Department.

In addition to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Geological Society of America, Mackin served a two-year term as Chairman of the Earth Sciences Division of the National Research Council.

Professor Hoover Mackin died on August 12, 1968. He was 62 years old.