Lou Henry Hoover, an accomplished geologist and scholar, translated the great scientific work, “De Re Metallica”, in collaboration with her husband, Herbert Hoover, the 31st President.
A tall, slim athlete, Lou entered Stanford University in 1894 as the school’s first female geology student. For 26 years following her graduation in 1898, she held the distinction as the geology department’s only female graduate. While at Stanford, she served as President of the Stanford Geology Club and met her future husband, Herbert Hoover. They married in 1899 and the following day set sail for China, where Herbert would work as Chief Engineer for the Chinese Government. When the bloody Boxer Rebellion broke out in 1900, the Hoovers were trapped in Tientsin during the month-long siege. With characteristic poise and courage, Lou nursed the wounded, looked after a dairy, and took her turn on night watches.
The idea of translating Agricola’s “De Re Metallica” (1556) originated with Lou. Previous attempts at translation had never come to fruition, for Agricola - the Father of Mineralogy - had simply invented new Latin expressions (hundreds of them!) to describe processes and substances for which no Latin equivalent existed. In 1906 Lou decided to take on the task of translating the tome, unaware that the project would turn into more than Five years of strenuous exertion for both of them; consuming all free time and over $20,000 of their own money. In 1912 the work was published and was instantly recognized as a brilliant work of scholarship and an incomparable contribution to the history of science. Of the 3000 copies printed, over half were given free to mining engineers and students. In 1914 the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America awarded the Hoovers its first Gold Medal for Distinguished Service.
Lou Henry Hoover was a remarkable woman who contributed unselfishly to a wide range of philanthropic work and scholarly pursuits, and who was an avid promoter of women’s athletics and the Girl Scouts of America.