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Woman for whom Kniker Carillon named left mark as a geologist

Hedwig Thusnelda Kniker was born Nov. 13, 1891, in Gay Hill, Washington County. She was the third child and the third daughter born to Carl and Natalie Meyer Kniker, a pioneer family. She was baptized at 2 a.m. on her 19th day when the family believed she was too ill to survive.

At the time of Ms. Kniker's birth, her father was minister of St. Peter's Evangelical Church. A few months later, the family moved to Cibolo, where Mr. Kniker became minister at St. Paul's Evangelical Church.

As evidenced by her diary, Ms. Kniker decided at an early age to attend college. After she graduated as valedictorian from the Opera House School in New Braunfels in 1908, she and her sister Rose obtained teacher certification and began teaching near home. In the summer of 1913, after both had saved enough money for college, they entered The University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. Kniker completed her undergraduate work in three years and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in German, psychology and geology on April 28, 1916. During her years at the University, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, an honor society for scientific research. She was active as well in the Germania Club, was vice president of the organization that later became Cap and Gown, was an officer in the YWCA and was a student assistant teacher in geology.

Tom Anderson, carilloneur at the University, sits at the new baton console. Hedwig Thusnelda Kniker is show in the insert.

After graduation, she began working on a Master of Arts degree, which she received after writing a thesis entitled “Comanchean and Cretaceous Pectinidae of Texas.” After receiving the M.A. in June 1917, she went to Cornell University to do further study in paleontology, and then to the University of Chicago.

From Chicago, she returned to Austin to join Dr. J.A. Udden in research at the Bureau of Economic Geology. During those years, she did extensive work on subsurface stratigraphy in Texas and Louisiana and named many geological formations in the areas.

In 1920, Ms. Kniker joined Texaco in Houston to establish the company's paleontology lab and direct its operations. While there, she received wide recognition for her pioneering work on Gulf Coast micopaleontology.

The West Texas oil boom attracted Ms. Kniker in 1927 and she went to San Angelo to work for Phillips Petroleum and, later, the independent oil firm of Ricker and Dodson. In 1930. She moved to San Antonio and went into business for herself as a consultant paleontologist and stratigraphic services.

She did well in business, but because geology was still considered a man's occupation, she operated by her initials. For many years, the oilmen for who she did consulting work assumed she was a man. Among her accomplishments during those years was the identification and naming of the McKnight Foundation, which even today is a common marker for wells drilled in some parts of West Texas.

Following her mother's death in 1941, she went to Chile for nine years to work for the United Geophysical Company and a governmental agency in geological investigation. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and German, she lived in Puenta Areanas and was active in exploring the area south of the Strait of Magellan for oil. During that time, she returned to the U.S. several times, primarily to do research in paleontology in Washington, D.C.

In June 1950, she retired and bought a home in Seguin. Even after retirement, she remained active as a consultant and as a contributor to professional journals. In 1955, she was honored by the South Texas Geological Society for her contributions to geological process and for her international recognition in the field of paleontology.

In 1970, Ms. Kniker moved to a San Antonio retirement home. She died Oct. 12, 1985, and was buried at the Guadalupe Memorial Park Cemetery between New Braunfels and Seguin.

On Campus. November 2-8, 1987.
Article by: Robert Tindol

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3 May 1999
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