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Donald E. White, 88; Geothermal Expert for U.S. Geological Survey

December 04, 2002|From Staff and Wire Reports

Donald E. White, 88, a geologist and geothermal expert for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, died of a heart attack Nov. 20 in Portola Valley, Calif.

A native of Dinuba, Calif., White earned a bachelor's degree at Stanford University, a doctorate at Princeton University and joined the U.S. Geological Survey in 1939; he was first stationed in Newfoundland.

He retired in 1992, when he received his second prestigious Penrose Medal from the Geological Society of America and the Society of Economic Geologists.

During his career, White did research on the origin of ore-forming metals and geothermal processes, particularly in the hot springs system at Yellowstone National Park. His reputation earned him invitations to work as a consultant and conduct presentations in more than 20 countries.

White gained widespread attention in 1985 when he sharply criticized the Department of Energy's choice of Hanford, Wash., as a possible nuclear dump site.

As a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel studying potential sites, he concluded the rock in the area could suddenly collapse during excavation, and warned of possible radioactive contamination of the area's drinking water.

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