2013 Nelson Award
William S. Cordua has been named the 2013 recipient of the Katherine G. Nelson Award, presented by the Weis Earth Science Museum, Menasha, Wisconsin. The award honors those who have made outstanding contributions to earth science in Wisconsin or Wisconsinites who have made outstanding contributions to earth science in general.
The dinosaurs didn’t do it. As a boy growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, Bill Cordua had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on a regular basis. Although he admired the dinosaur fossils, it wasn’t until he had seen the Hall of Minerals that he became hooked on geology. He was so interested in minerals that he eventually earned his Ph.D. in geology from Indiana University.
Not content to keep his appreciation for minerals to himself, Bill joined the faculty of the geology program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1973. For the next 40 years, he shared his knowledge and love of rocks with his students, who considered him an “awesome” professor.
Bill was also generous with his time and knowledge when it came to amateur mineral enthusiasts and rock clubs. Of special note, he wrote interesting and accessible popular articles about minerals and various geologic topics. Many of these have been widely published, and some have won national awards.
Wisconsin has been the focus of his scientific research. In particular, Bill has compiled the most authoritative and complete list of Wisconsin minerals and the localities where they are found. This database can be found on the website of the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey. He also conducted the chemical analysis of the Flambeau copper mine in Rusk County, and researched how the deposit formed. Intrigued by an unusual rock structure in Pierce County back in 1985, Bill spent the next 20 years patiently looking for evidence that it was the site of meteorite impact crater. Thanks to Bill’s determination, indisputable proof was found by 2007, and the site, known as the Rock Elm Disturbance, is now known to be what remains of a meteorite that slammed into Wisconsin 470,000,000 years ago. As usual, Bill wanted to educate as many people as possible about the crater, so he co-authored a tour guide for the public.
Even after retirement, Bill continues to provide his expertise of Wisconsin geology. Currently, he is working with the city of Ladysmith to mount an exhibit about the Flambeau copper mine.