Hubbert, M King

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M King Hubbert
M King Hubbert


M King Hubbert 1903 (Texas USA) - 1989


Hubbert attended a one-room Texas schoolhouse, received an unconventional high school education, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1926, having taken a self-designed academic program that emphasized physics, mathematics, and geology. He put little store in degrees and received his Ph.D. only in 1937, on the basis of his publication of The Theory of Scale Models As Applied to the Study of Geologic Structures, later revised into his classic paper "The Strength of the Earth."

His career spanned academia, government, and industry. He worked as an assistant geologist for the Amerada Petroleum Company for two years while pursuing his Ph.D., additionally teaching geophysics at Columbia University. He also served as a senior analyst at the Board of Economic Warfare. From 1943 to 1964 he was a research scientist with Shell Development in Houston, and from 1964 to 1976 a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at UC Berkeley from 1973 to 1976.

He co-founded Technocracy Incorporated with Howard Scott. Hubbert wrote a study course[2] that was published without authorship called Technocracy Study Course,[3] the precedent document of that group which advocates a non-market economics form of energy accounting,[4] in contrast to the current Price System method.[5] Hubbert was a member of the Board of Governors, and served as Secretary of education to that organisation.

Hubbert was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was long affiliated with the Geological Society of America, receiving their Arthur L. Day Medal in 1954, being elected President of the Society in 1962, and receiving the Society's Penrose Medal in 1973. He received the Vetlesen Prize from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and Columbia University in 1981. He also received the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1981.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

It could be argued that M. King Hubbert is the father of geophysics. Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth's crust deforms over time. Hubbert made three major contributions to the earth sciences and one to society, and any one of them would have guaranteed him a good measure of fame. His first recognition came from his publication in 1940 of the Theory of Groundwater Motion, a treatise that elegantly clarified the fundamental physics that underlies the flow of fluids through porous media.

In 1953, he applied these principles in the "Entrapment of Petroleum Under Hydrodynamic Conditions," a paper that eschewed conventional wisdom and eventually had a major impact on petroleum exploration strategies. In 1959, he and William W. Rubey attacked what was then one of the most enigmatic paradoxes in geology, the process of thrust faulting. Their classic paper, the "Role of Fluid Pressure in the Mechanics of Overthrust Faulting," introduced the concept of effective stress in a structural geology framework. It opened the door to later work by others on earthquake prediction and control.

Hubbert's societal contribution revolves around his claim, first made in 1949, that the fossil fuel era of energy production would be relatively short lived. His bell-shaped curve (often called the "Hubbert Pimple"), which traces the complete cycle of U.S. and world crude oil production from discovery to exhaustion, first alerted the public to the fact that petroleum resources are not inexhaustible. Although hotly contested over the years, his projections have had a major impact on the international oil industry and on U.S. government policy.

Reference Material[edit]

Committee on Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences, 1991, Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council,

Wikipedia: M King Hubbert

Freeze, R.A., 2023. M. King Hubbert and “The Theory of Ground‐Water Motion”. Groundwater, 61(1), pp.147-158.

Ingebritsen, S.E., and Manga, M., 2023, M. King Hubbert 1903-1989: National Academy of Sciences Bibliographical Memoir, 35 p.,

Major Publications[edit]

Hubbert, M.K., 1937. Theory of scale models as applied to the study of geologic structures. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 48(10), pp.1459-1520.

Hubbert, M.K., 1949. Energy from fossil fuels. Science, 109(2823), pp.103-109.

Hubbert, M.K., 1940. The theory of ground-water motion. The Journal of Geology, 48(8, Part 1), pp.785-944.

Hubbert, M.K., 1951. Mechanical basis for certain familiar geologic structures. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 62(4), pp.355-372.

Hubbert, M.K., 1953. Entrapment of petroleum under hydrodynamic conditions. Aapg Bulletin, 37(8), pp.1954-2026.

Hubbert, M.K. and Willis, D.G., 1957. Mechanics of hydraulic fracturing. Transactions of the AIME, 210(01), pp.153-168.

Hubbert, M.K., 1956. Darcy's law and the field equations of the flow of underground fluids. Transactions of the AIME, 207(01), pp.222-239.

Hubbert, M.K., 1956, January. Nuclear energy and the fossil fuel. In Drilling and production practice. OnePetro.

King Hubbert, M. and Rubey, W.W., 1959. Role of fluid pressure in mechanics of overthrust faulting: I. Mechanics of fluid-filled porous solids and its application to overthrust faulting. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 70(2), pp.115-166.

Rubey, W.W. and King Hubbert, M., 1959. Role of fluid pressure in mechanics of overthrust faulting: II. Overthrust belt in geosynclinal area of western Wyoming in light of fluid-pressure hypothesis. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 70(2), pp.167-206

Hubbert, M.K., 1967, April. Application of hydrodynamics to oil exploration. In 7th World Petroleum Congress. OnePetro.

Hubbert, M.K., 1967. Critique of the principle of uniformity. Uniformity and simplicity. Geological Society of America Special Paper, 89, pp.3-33.

Hubbert, M.K., 1971. The energy resources of the earth. Scientific American, 225(3), pp.60-73.

Hubbert, M.K., 1993. Exponential growth as a transient phenomenon in human history. Valuing the earth: Economics, ecology, ethics, pp.113-126.