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Inventory to the Papers of G. Dallas Hanna at the California Academy of Sciences Library MSS.208
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical note
  • Conditions governing access
  • Preferred citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition note
  • Related materials
  • Scope and content
  • Reproduction

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Hanna (G. Dallas) papers
    Collection number: MSS.208
    Repository: California Academy of Sciences, Special Collections
    55 Music Concourse Drive
    Golden Gate Park
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Languages: Materials are in English.
    Physical Description: 23.68 Cubic feet 11 records center cartons, 5 archives boxes, 44 clam shell boxes, 1 album, 1 flat oversize item, 6 index card boxes, 7 metal slide trays, 1/2 box of glass negatives, 6 mounted photographs in the Manuscript Flat Files.
    Date: undated
    Language of materials: Materials are in English.
    Creator: Hanna, G. Dallas, 1887-1970

    Biographical note

    Dr. G Dallas Hanna was born in Carlisle, Arkansas on April 24, 1887. In 1911, he received his A.B. from the University of Kansas in zoology, paleontology and chemistry. Soon after, he accepted a position with the United States Bureau of Fisheries and was sent to Bristol Bay, Alaska, where he examined the aquatic biology and wildlife of the area for planning and conservation purposes. Hanna quickly became an expert seaman and dog-sledder.
    During the winter of 1912-1913, Hanna took his dog-sled from Bristol Bay to Iditarod, the only telegraph station from which he could communicate with Washington D.C. to receive his orders for the following summer. Along the distance of 1000 miles, he collected over 800 birds and mammals for the U.S. National Museum. Hanna’s orders sent him to the Pribilof Islands to act as custodian and census taker of the local fur seal population at its breeding grounds. He also wrote about the mammals and birds of the area, studied geology and paleontology and developed an interest in fossil diatoms.
    In 1913, Dr. Hanna received his A.M. from the University of Kansas. In 1918, he received his Ph.D. from George Washington University. His dissertation was on the shells of eastern Kansas. He worked for the Bureau of Fisheries intermittently during these five years. In 1919, Dr. Hanna accepted a position as the Curator of Paleontology at the California Academy of Sciences. He was offered the job by the Academy’s new director, B. W. Evermann, the former Chief of Alaska Division United States Bureau of Fisheries.
    At the Academy, Hanna began to evaluate the usefulness of the fossils of diatoms, radiolarians and silicoflagellates (all unicellular organisms) in identifying geologic strata that could lead to oil. Soon he was working with Pacific Oil and Associated Oil. On May 16, 1923, the Academy granted Hanna approval to begin work establishing correlations between microfossils and oil-well sediments. On April 23, 1924, a new laboratory was opened in the Associated Oil building for this project; it was the first of its kind on the west coast. Hanna also began studying the foraminiforal content of oil well cores.
    In 1928, Hanna served on a committee on micropaleontology in the Division of Geology and Geography of the National Research Council. That same year he served as the Vice-President of the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists. In 1932, he served as that organization’s President. In 1937 and 1938, Dr. Hanna returned to Alaska to lead and act as Chief Geologist for an expedition doing detailed geologic work in Cold Bay and Yakataga Prospective Oil Districts.
    Hanna was a talented inventor and machinist who enjoyed creating solutions to his problems. He designed new instruments for the surveying of wells, and subsequently worked with others to update the design. He created a “mechanical finger” for handling and mounting his diatom specimens so that he could more easily view them under his microscope. He used his chemistry training to develop Hyrax and Pleurax, mounting mediums that allow diatoms to be viewed and studied more closely. He designed “massive” dredging and trawling equipment used for analyzing the sea floor and created a three color offset process for publishing color illustrations in scientific publications.
    This inventing spilled over into the field of optics. Hanna began working to improve visibility in microscopes, which led to manufacturing prisms for the United States Army. This initial work with the Army led to the Navy contracting the Academy for optics work during World War II. During the course of the war over 25,000 optical instruments were serviced or repaired and over 11,000 optical parts were manufactured or repaired at the Academy by a staff of about 50 people.
    After the war, the idea of creating a planetarium at the Academy was brought up. However, the Zeiss factory -- the sole manufacturer of a needed projector -- had been moved to the Soviet Union. Hanna took it upon himself and his optics shop to build a projector for the planetarium. He also developed a new method for creating star plates, which created more realistic star shapes.
    Hanna returned to Alaska from 1955 to 1957, this time to Pt. Barrow to serve first as the Director of the Arctic Research Laboratory and later as a special investigator. In May of 1970, the University of Alaska conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Sciences on Hanna for his work in that state.
    After leaving Alaska in 1957, Hanna returned to San Francisco and continued his work at the Academy. He died on November 20, 1970, shortly after suffering a stroke.

    Conditions governing access

    Access is unrestricted.

    Preferred citation

    G. Dallas Hanna papers, California Academy of Sciences Archives, San Francisco, CA

    Immediate Source of Acquisition note

    The California Academy of Sciences Archives acquired the G. Dallas Hanna papers from Mrs. Margaret Hanna and the Invertebrate Zoology and Geology Department of the California Academy of Sciences.

    Related materials

    Guadalupe Island Expedition of 1922 collection (Catalog numbers N362-N690). California Academy of Sciences Archives.
    Revillagigedo Expedition of 1925 (Catalog #s N691-N1054, N2127-N2167). California Academy of Sciences Archives.
    Orca Expedition of 1953 (Catalog #s N2234-N2270). California Academy of Sciences Archives.
    Steller Sea Lions at Año Nuevo, 1924 (Catalog #s N2190-N2227). California Academy of Sciences Archives.
    Margaret Hanna oral history and other materials. California Academy of Sciences Archives.
    California Academy of Sciences. Invertebrate Zoology and Geology Department records. California Academy of Sciences Archives.

    Scope and content

    The collection is composed of G. Dallas Hanna's correspondence, photographs, and research papers. There is a significant amount of materials pertraining to Hanna's work in Alaska with a some focus on the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Other focus areas include malacology, diatoms, and Alaska fur seals. The collection contains a considerable number of photographs and glass negatives.


    All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    California Academy of Sciences. Dept. of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology.
    Morrison Planetarium (San Francisco, Calif.).
    California Academy of Sciences--Curators
    California Academy of Sciences--Employees
    California Academy of Sciences--Scientists
    Natural history museum curators
    Natural history museums--Employees
    Scientific expeditions--Alaska.