William Roger "Bill" Smith, well-known Colorado mineral collector, was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 18, 1924, the son of a single mother, Christina Helena Aeberley (a Chicago-born secretary of Swiss descent). Bill was raised by his mother on the North and South sides of Chicago, his biological father being absent from his life. While still attending Scott Elementary School he met Rosalie Virginia Loeser (born 1924 in Chicago), who would eventually become his wife.
While growing up Bill was a regular visitor at the Field Museum of Natural History, as well as the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago World's Fair in 1936-1937. In 1937, at the age of 12, he was sent to live for a year with his aunt and uncle in Kansas City, where he enjoyed the use of his uncle's library. Returning to Chicago, he came across a copy of George L. English's book Getting Acquainted with Minerals, and became hooked on mineralogy. He studied the mineral collection at the Field Museum, and took a two-week collecting trip to the Michigan Copper Country, shipping back 30 pounds of specimens to Chicago.
After quitting school at the age of 15, Bill worked odd jobs for a year and then enlisted in the Marines in 1941, lying about his age to get in. Becoming a flight communications officer and eventually senior gunner, he saw action on Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other locations in the Pacific Theater. Returning to California between tours, he married Rosalie in 1944. After the war ended he took night courses to obtain his Graduate Equivalency Degree, and was then admitted to the University of Chicago (where Edward Teller, "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb," was his physics instructor); his fees were paid under the G.I. Bill. He graduated with a B.S. Degree in Mathematics in 1949, and entered Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There he received his Master's Degree in Mathematics in 1951, and was hired by the Armed Forces Security Agency (later renamed the National Security Agency) to work on highly classified cryptography programs involving the use of the newly developed computers. This required a move to Washington, DC.
While living in the DC area, Bill got to know the mineralogists at the Smithsonian Institution, including William F. Foshag, George Switzer and Edward P. Henderson, who allowed him study access to the mineral collection; Switzer also sponsored his membership in the Mineralogical Society of America. Bill also got to know the legendary mineral dealer Martin Ehrmann, and later wrote a biographical article about him for the Mineralogical Record. When Ehrmann was in town with fabulous minerals to offer to the Smithsonian, Bill was called in to see the treasures along with the curators. And when the Schortmann brothers acquired the Lechner collection, Bill went along with the curators and future curator Paul Desautels to help sort through it all and determine what the Smithsonian would take; he also obtained a few superb specimens for himself. (Bill wrote an article on the Lechner collection for the Mineralogical Record in 1991.)
Bill's favorite collecting locality was Centreville, Virginia, where the famous apophyllites came from; one night in 1954 he and Rosalie snuck into the quarry illegally after the watchman went home, and opened a fabulous pocket of apophyllite. Bill traded pieces from that haul for years, building up his collection. In 1957 Bill took a year off for graduate study at the University of California in Berkeley, passing through Butte, Montana on the way, where he met a trading partner, Al McGuinness.
In 1963 Bill went to work (on loan from the NSA) as a cryptanalyst for the British equivalent of the NSA, the GCHQ (General Communications Headquarters) and moved with his family (wife Rosalie, four daughters and a son) to Cheltenham, England. He did little mineral collecting while in England, but spent many days studying the mineral collection at the British Museum of Natural History, becoming close friends with the curator there, Peter G. Embrey.
Returning to his home in suburban Maryland in 1966, Bill resumed his old duties with the NSA, and was promptly promoted to head the G41 branch, supervising a group of 50 to 65 cryptanalysts; for his successful work there he was given the Meritorious Civilian Service Award. In 1973 he took over as Chief of G9 branch (dealing with the Middle East, South Asia and North and Sub-Saharan Africa), supervising a staff of over 300 people. In 1969 he was appointed Deputy Director of the NSA's Office of Program and Budget. Bill retired from the NSA in 1980, at the age of 55. He was soon hired by Cray Research (makers of supercomputers) as an analyst and marketer, and once again he was dealing with the NSA, Cray's biggest customer.
Sadly, Rosalie died of cancer in 1976, and Bill remarried, to Carol Lehman Daughety, in 1978. He moved to Colorado and retired for good in 1985, to devote his remaining years to camping, skiing, and collecting minerals with Carol. They decided that their collecting would focus on native elements, sulfides and sulfosalts; English minerals; Northern Areas, Pakistan; and hematite. Their most devoted specialty was minerals containing the element silver. Drastically narrowing their focus allowed them to sell many other specimens from Bill's collection, on consignment through Dave Bunk, and these sales financed new purchases. They traveled widely, seeing collections and regularly visiting the big mineral shows, often exhibiting specimens from their collection. Bill and Carol also wrote at least nine articles for publication, mostly in the Mineralogical Record. For nearly 25 years they hosted an annual party for mineral people during the Denver Show. Bill also served for a number of years on the Board of Directors of the Mineralogical Record. After a long and eventful life, Bill passed away from Lung Cancer on March 23, 2012.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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