University of Texas
Ludwig (Lui) Wilhelm Blau

August 9, 1894–July 9, 1978

 

 

Ludwig "Lui" Wilhelm Blau


Introduction

Ludwig "Lui" Wilhem Blau was born August 9, 1894, in Graben, the State of Baden, German. Graben-Neudorf is a town in Northern Karlsruhe Country in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. His parents were Lewis W. and Wilhelmina Suess Blau. They are shown at right.

Here we have Lui's first photo at the age on one in Karlsruhe in 1895.

Here we see a view of Graben as Lui would have seen it as a boy.

 

Graben, 1894
Graben, Today

In 1890, the Baileys donated the land in Bonham to build the Methodist church (see arrow) shown in the 1910 photo.

Lui was an active child and one of the leaders in the "crusades" (fights with wooden swords) of Baden boys (mostly Lutherans) against the next door town of Neudorf boys (mostly Catholics).

The Blau house, seen here in 1993 in Graben, was was built in 1850 and still stands—although remodeled.

 

Here is Lui, at left, with his mother, Wilhelmina, and a friend in the courtyard behind their home in Baden.

 

Lui Blau attended Volksschule in Baden, Germany.

Above picture about 1902 of Lui's class. The teacher was Lehrer Herzer. Lui is third row from top and fourth from the right.

 

 

 

Above picture about 1907 of Lui's class. The teacher was Herr Gruen, "Green teaches Blau". Lui is tall boy, third from the left, in the back row.

An eighth grade school picture of Lui at age thirteen is at right.

Lui’s grandfather, Phillip Martin Blau, lived with the Lewis Blau family until his death in 1907. He was fond of Lui and taught him to read, and after a few years, they read Shakespeare and Goethe. His grandfather encouraged him to get an education and enter into a profession. The family talked about moving to Rhodesia, a Germany colony, or the USA, but waited until his death to make the move. In February 1909, the family sold the family house and caught a ship (Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, see photo below) from Bremen to New York. Then by train from Jersey City, NJ to Chicago, Omaha, and finally arriving in Garfield, Washington—an eventful train trip. Garfield, a small town in southeast Washington, had been founded in the early 1880s by Samuel J. Tant, who named the town after James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm

With the help of Uncle Philip Blau, they purchased a farm in Whitman County near Elberton, Washington (photo at right, “downtown” Elberton 1899) , and began their new life in the USA. Their house burned and they rebuilt.

Lui started to school and was placed in the first grade. He reached an agreement with the teacher that he would not cause trouble provided he could advance in grades as soon as he passed the necessary courses. At the end of ten months he graduated from the eighth grade. Farming was difficult for Lewis Blau, and Lui had to drop out of school to help his father. But he continued his education by helping Max and Louise with their homework and reading books whenever possible.

 

 

 

Below is a family photo taken in 1909 in Whitman County.

The Lewis Blau family in 1909, Whitman County, Washington State.
Max, Lui, Louise, Wilhemina and Lewis.

 

Below is a photo of the Blau clan in 1910.

The Blau Clan in 1910. We see Lewis in front, center with the moustache, to his right is Lui. Max is in front of Liu. The young woman in black at the right end of the back row appears to be Louise. Woman, front left with baby may be Wilhemina, though she seem a bit large.

The rolling hills of the Palouse, where Whitman County is based, were created by glacial activity during the ice ages. The hills are primarily composed of soil blown in from the West and South of the county. The soil is a very fertile loess—a combination of silt, clay and sand that is excellent for farming. The county was and continues to be a major producer of wheat.

Above, we see Lui with his team of work horses and wagon on the farm in Whitman County. No doubt, the work was very hard, however, the Lui and and siblings grew in stature and intellect. Below, we see several photos that confirm this.

 

Ludwig "Lui" Wilhelm Blau, 1913
Max and Lui Blau
Louise, Max & Lui: about 1914

In 1917, the Lewis Blau family moved from Washington State to the panhandle of Texas.

 

In West Texas, Lui became a rancher—cowboy. He rode the range and read the dictionary. The sheriff even deputized him to help catch a fugitive. The sheriff’s instruction : “Don’t lay a hand on him. Just tell him what to do. If he doesn’t follow orders—shoot him.” They did not have any trouble with any fugitives.

On Sundays, Lui went to church and met a young girl—her name was Mollie Herber. She was studying to become a school teacher, and Lui helped her with the lessons. She passed the Texas Teachers Exam and began teaching. They continued dating and in October 1921, they became engaged.

Lui shaved his moustache and sold his horse and saddle but kept his spurs and six-shooter. Lui and Mollie were married on June 4, 1922. Lui’s parents objected to the marriage since she was poor (Mollie and her family were a German peasant family who had emigrated from Ukraine, Russia) and handicapped (lost her left hand in a farming accident). Lui and Molly decided to continue their education and suffer the consequences.

 

 

The first step was to obtain an “equivalent” high school degree which he did. In 1922, Lui and Mollie began a new life under very difficult financial circumstances. They borrowed money and were able to obtain jobs teaching inrural schools—Mollie taught the elementary school and Lui taught high school—first, in Hutchinson Co. and then in Summerfield, Texas. While teaching they studied and took correspondence courses from the University of Chicago. After teaching two winters, they moved to Canyon, Texas and continued their education at West Texas State. To make ends meet, Liu said he milked cows belonging to the football coach. There, Esther Mollie Blau was born on December 6, 1924. Mollie and Esther are shown below.


Lui graduated from West Texas State in 1925 with a BA degree in mathematics. His senior photo is below right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following graduation the family moved to Austin. He was a tutor in physics while he worked on his MA at the University of Texas (1925–1926). The title of his thesis was, An Indicating Density-difference Hygrometer. MA Thesis, 1926, University of Texas at Austin, Physics. In 1927, he was appointed Physics Instructor at a salary of $1400/yr. In 1928, he published a paper, “Weight and Humidity” with Arnold Romberg in Science 30 March 1928: Vol. 67. no. 1735, p. 347.

 

In 1929, Lui and Charles Paul Boner earned the the second and third PhDs in physics. Lui’s dissertation was entitled, Torsion Balances of Short Period. Click for Dissertation Info. His supervisor was Professor Arnold Romberg, who came from the University of Hawaii where he has developed an interest in seismic measurement. Lui, in capand gown, is pictured at left.

 

Romberg joined the faculty at UT Austin in 1923. In 1925, Humble Oil Company ordered two Süss [sometimes spelled Suess] torsion balances from the Süss Nádor Company of Hungary, and Professor Romberg was sent to Europe to obtain all information possible on their use and the interpretation of the data from Director Dezsö Pekár of the Eötvös Institute. Lui and Romberg’s studies provided background for the invention of the LaCoste-Romberg gravity meter in 1932.

 

 

In the summer 1929, Lui’s choice was to take a physics position at the U. of Heidelberg or a job with Humble Oil & Refining in Houston TX. Clearly Humble would have followed closely his research work on the torsion balance. He would be a very desirable addition to their staff and could contribute immediately to the efforts to detect minerals with the torsion balance, an idea proposed at the turn of the century by the Hungarian physicist Loránd Eötvös. Lui became a Research Geophysicist for Humble—(later it becomes Exxon). The stock market collapsed in October, however, Humble did not layoff people, instead, they cut everyone’s salary 10%. In his new job he succeeded and was placed in charge of geophysical research: 1930-1937.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On November 1, 1931, a new girl came into Lui’s life: Margaret Elisabeth Blau. Life was good in Houston TX at their new home on 2027 Colquitt with Mollie, Esther, Margaret and dog Bo. Lui, Mollie and Margaret are shown at right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mollie and Lui Blau, likely Congregational Church of Austin.

 

 

Work at Humble Oil

Liu was employed by Humble Oil & Refining in Research Geophysics 1929-1930, in charge of geophysics research from 1930–1937 and geophysics and production research from 1937–1942. During WWII, like many Americans of German birth, he was reassigned to a new position. He became research consultant (patents) from 1942–191959. His work resulted in discovery of several oil and gas fields. He received 53 patents on gravitational, electrical and seismic methods of prospecting and on electric well logging. He authored numerous papers in professional journals and retired August 9, 1959.

Above, we see Lui standing while supervising a seismic explosion team in West Texas in 1930. A refraction shot with a 2000 pounds dynamite shot for Humble Oil & Refining. Seismic reflections were a technique to map the depth and thickness of underground oil and gas zones. Lui Blau obtained several patents regarding seismic reflections.

 

Lui used the torsion balance to locate and map salt domes. The torsion balance measures small difference in gravity. Salt weighs less than sand, rock, clay and dirt; thus, the earth’s gravity effect over salt domes is smaller. This technique allowed finding the numerous salt domes in the Gulf Coast with their associated oil and gas traps.

 

During the 1940s, Liu suffered from attacks of gout. He was so seriously affected by gout that he was confined to a wheelchair. The only appealing food he could find in the house was a bowl of cherries. He ate them all and found, the next day, that his gout pain and swelling was considerably reduced. He continued to eat around 6 cherries per day and was gout free until he stopped eating the cherries and the gout returned. Working with his family physician, he studied twelve other gout sufferers and recorded that eating cherries helped all of them. His findings were reported in Cherry Diet Control for Gout and Arthritis" (published in Texas Reports on Biology and Medicine, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1950). There are a number of more controlled studies referenced on the internet that seem to support his conclusions.

Lui's honors include: Fellow of AAAS, memberships in TX Academy of Science, Society of Exploration Geophysics, APS, AAPG, Math Assn. of America, Houston Geological Society, American Geophysics Union, Houston Philosophy Society, Society of Exploration Geophysicist, Sigma Xi and a Reregister Engineer of TX. Also member of National Rifle Association, Houston Engineering Club, Houston Torch Club, and Golf Crest Country Club. Interest: hygrometry, interferometer, forced vibrations, torsion balance, seismology, gravitational seismic and electrical, chemical and magnetic methods of prospecting, well spacing, drilling mud treatment, estimation of petroleum reserves, development of drilling and production equipment, treatment of diabetes, gouty arthritis, politics & the stock market.

Lui was listed in American Men of Science, Who’s Who in Engineering, Who’s Who in Commerce and Industry and Who’s Who in Texas.

 

Lui enjoyed his retirement life. He liked to play chess with his grandson, Roger. In 1970, he and Mollie moved into their dream home near the Rice campus, in Houston TX. It was their home from 1970 until his death in July 1978. Mollie followed him shortly thereafter in December of the same year. At right are Lui and Mollie in their home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgement
Pictures and much of the information in this write-up came from a presentation created and generously shared by Joe and Margaret Blau Clegg. I am very grateful for their help.

Left: Margaret and Joe Clegg.

Right: Cleggs with Pat and Mel Oakes in Blau home in Houston. 2010