- © 2009 American Mineralogist
Benjamin Franklin Leonard III, at age 87, passed away peacefully at his home in McCall, Idaho, on September 5, 2008. Ben had a long and distinguished career at the U.S. Geological Survey, where he established himself as an accomplished field geologist and an internationally recognized expert in ore microscopy.
Born in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on May 12, 1921, Ben spent much of his early life in the eastern United States, graduating from Hamilton College in 1942 (B.S.), a salutatorian and member of Phi Beta Kappa, and then Princeton University in 1946 (M.A.) and 1951 (Ph.D.), where he was a member of Sigma Xi.
Ben’s geologic career began as a field assistant to Allen Heyl in the summer of 1942 for the Geological Survey of Newfoundland, mapping igneous and metamorphic rocks and magnetite deposits. His U.S. Geological Survey career began as a field assistant in 1943 to A.F. Buddington, doing regional geologic mapping and studying magnetite deposits in New York (for which he mapped about 1000 square miles of the St. Lawrence County magnetite district in the northwest Adirondacks) and Pennsylvania, and copper deposits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while still a graduate student at Princeton University. His graduate studies on the ore deposits in the St. Lawrence County magnetite district culminated in his doctoral dissertation, later published by the U.S. Geological Survey as Professional Paper 377, considered to be the major treatise on the district.
His transition to the western U.S. started ca. 1951, when he and his wife Eleanor (Vandy) moved to Golden, Colorado, and Ben became a member of the Minerals Branch at the U.S. Geological Survey in Lakewood. With his Ph.D. fresh in hand he began full-time work on Survey projects including continued research in the St. Lawrence County magnetite district. Ben’s field research soon expanded …