Donald Miner Davidson was an exceptional geologist and, more importantly, an outstanding minerals exploration manager, who rose to the position of President of The E.J. Longyear Company. Davidson was especially concerned with the role of human relationships in developing international mining properties. In his 1954 presidential address to the Society of Economic Geologists on “Human Relationships in Future Mineral Procurement,” Davidson emphasized “that attitudes are more important than techniques, that people are more important than rocks.”
Donald Davidson was born in Quincy, Illinois; however his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in his youth. He attended the University of Minnesota, where he earned three degrees in geology—B.A. (1925 magna cum laude), M.S. (1926), and Ph.D. (1928).
In 1928, Selection Trust, Ltd. of England hired Davidson, and he began work as a geologist and engineer on the Central African Copperbelt in the development of that company’s Roan Antelope, Chambishi, and Mufulira mines. Despite intermittent employment with SELCO during the Depression, Davidson was ultimately promoted to Chief Geologist and Senior Engineer. In 1939, the outbreak of World War II forced him to return to the United States.
In 1940, E.J. Longyear hired Davidson as Chief Geologist. His work for Longyear carried him to the Near and Far East and Europe, as well as to North and South America. In the years from 1945 to 1960, he logged more than 1 million travel miles in propeller aircraft.
Noteworthy projects that Donald Davidson headed included the Tintic, Utah copper project; the Piney River, Virginia titanium project; and the Portuguese Technical Commission’s geologic mapping of Angola. During his years with Longyear, Davidson rose to become Head of the Mining Division (1947), Vice President (1948), and President (1958), a position he held until his untimely passing in 1960.
Davidson served as a member of the National Minerals Advisory Council (Paley Commission; 1950-1952) and was President of the Society of Economic Geologists (1953-1954). He also served as a consultant to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Bureau of Mines, U.S. Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey Secretary’s Service Committee, and the President’s Materials Policy Commission. He authored several scientific papers. He lectured in geology and mining at the University of Minnesota, Columbia University, and the War College.
As well as being listed in “Who’s Who in America,” Donald Davidson was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Mining Engineers, Canadian Institute of Mining Engineers, American Geophysical Union, Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (London), and Mining and Metallurgical Society of America. He was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Society of Economic Geologists.