Theis, C V

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C. V. Theis


Charles Vernon Theis 1900 (Newport, Kentucky, USA) –1987 (Albuquerque, NM, USA)


Theis graduated from high school in 1916 and from the University of Cincinnati in civil engineering in 1922. In 1929, after serving as both instructor and student in the geology department at the University of Cincinnati, he received the first Ph.D. ever awarded by that department.

His career was spent almost entirely with the U.S. Geological Survey, first in Washington, D.C., and then in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Colleagues who knew Theis at the USGS recall him as a hard-nosed, fiesty leader of the highest personal integrity, a man who admired clear thinking and who always had time for younger colleagues.

The number of honors bestowed on C.V. Theis by scientific colleagues and by scientific and professional organizations attests as much to his qualities as a human being as to his scientific accomplishments. In 1963, a "Symposium of Transient Ground Water Hydraulics," held at Colorado State University (Maasland and Bittinger, 1963), was dedicated to Theis. In 1966, a textbook "Hydrogeology" by Stanley L. Davis and Roger J.M. DeWiest was dedicated to Theis. He was designated the first honorary member of the American Water Resources Association and he held a similar position in the Ground Water Technical Division, National Water Well Association, since renamed the National Association of Ground-Water Scientists and Engineers. That organization dedicated a symposium on the "Geohydrology of the Dakota Aquifer" (see Hendrickson, 1984) to Theis.

Many honors were bestowed during Theis' lifetime, such as Fellowship of the Geological Society of America in 1936 and the Horton Medal of the American Geophysical Union in 1984. The American Institute of Hydrology honored Theis by establishing an annual symposium dedicated to him, and in 1988, the symposium included accolades from colleagues, associates, and fellow scientists. The organization also established, and presents annually, the C.V. Theis award for an outstanding contribution in ground-water hydrology.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

C. V. Theis ensured his fame with a single five-page paper that appeared in 1935 in the Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. Entitled "The Relation Between the Lowering of the Piezometric Surface and the Rate and Duration of Discharge of a Well Using Ground Water Storage," it earned Theis recognition as the founder of the applied science of transient ground water flow. This was studying the ground water resources of the Portales Valley of New Mexico for the USGS when he began to think about an in situ method of measuring aquifer permeability based on recording piezometric drawdowns in an observation well near a pumping well. His method is based on a mathematical solution to the appropriate boundary value problem that he developed by analogy with the available heat flow solutions. In this exercise he was helped by his friend, C. I. Lubin, of the University of Cincinnati, who is acknowledged in the paper but declined co-authorship. Theis's 1935 paper inspired a lengthy succession of aquifer hydraulics research in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s by others. In the 1950s, Theis became the USGS liaison with the Atomic Energy ommission, and he wrote many early articles on the hydrogeologic issues associated with nuclear waste disposal.

Theis's contribution is not likely to be forgotten; in most hydrogeology textbooks, only two headings reflect the name of their originators: Darcy's law and the Theis curve.

Reference Material[edit]

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

C V Theis: The man and his contributions to hydrogeology by Robert R. White and Alfred Clebsch -

Anderson, Mary P., 1989, C.V. Theis and Heterogeneity, in Moore, J.E., Zaporozec, A.A., Csallany. S.C., and Varney, T.C., eds., Recent advances in ground-water hydrology, First C.V. Theis Symposium: American Institute of Hydrology; p. xix-xxi.

Major Publications[edit]


C V Theis interview with J D Bredehoeft for the IAH Time Capsule

also at the AGU History of Hydrology page