|Born in 1906 in Latvia, Victor Oppenheim spent
much of his early life in China and other parts of East Asia with his father, a civil and
mining engineer, and his mother. After his fathers untimely death, Victor and his
mother returned to Latvia. He was educated at the University of Caen. In 1927, after
graduation, Oppenheim was employed by Ludovick Barreau, an engineering and mining
consultant firm in Paris. In 1929 the company sent Oppenheim to South America. During the
next twenty years, he explored and geologically mapped the continent, usually as a
consulting geologist for the countries he was exploring and mapping. His extensive travels
through southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and eastern Peru resulted in
the first geological maps for each of those countries. In 1944 Victor Oppenheim completed
the first geological map of an entire continent, which was published by the Pan American
Institute of Mining, Engineering, and Geology in 1945. Among his other many achievements
in South America were the discovery of the largest known coal reserve in the world at El
Cerrejon and a large petroleum deposit at Cusiana, both in Colombia; the naming of a
mountain range in eastern Ecuador, the Sierra de Cutucu; and the discovery of a hitherto
unknown culture in Guarija, Colombia.
Victor Oppenheim continued his explorations and geological work after he left South America and established a consulting company in Dallas, Texas. He completed extensive field work in Latin America, Mexico, West Africa, as well as in the United States in Arkansas, Alaska, New Mexico, and Texas.
The author of over 120 scientific papers, Victor Oppenheim has been honored by the Explorers Club, the American Institute of Professional Geologists, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, and the Dallas Geological Society. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the country of Ecuador, and has been called the "Father of Colombian Geology."
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