M. King Hubbert

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Image:Hubbertk.gifMarion King Hubbert (October 5, 1903October 11, 1989) was a geophysicist who worked at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas. He made several important contributions to geology and geophysics, most notably the Hubbert curve, with important political ramifications. He was often referred to as "M. King Hubbert" or "King Hubbert".



Image:Hubbert.jpg Hubbert was born in San Saba, Texas in 1903. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. in 1926, his M.S. in 1928, and his Ph.D in 1937, studying geology, mathematics, and physics. He worked as an assistant geologist for the Amerada Petroleum Company for two years while pursuing his Ph.D. He joined the Shell Oil Company in 1943, retiring from that firm in 1964. After he retired from Shell, he became a senior research geophysicist for the United States Geological Survey until his retirement in 1976. He also held positions as a professor of geology and geophysics at Stanford University from 1963 to 1968, and as a professor at Berkeley from 1973 to 1976.

It is not common knowledge that Hubbert was an avid technocrat. Considered a great asset to the organization, he co-founded Technocracy Inc. and contributed significantly to the Technocracy Study Guide.


Hubbert made several contributions to geophysics, including a mathematical demonstration that rock in the Earth's crust, because it is under immense pressure in large areas, should exhibit plasticity, similar to clay. This demonstration explained the observed results that the Earth' s crust deforms over time. He also studied the flow of underground fluids.

Hubbert is most well-known for his studies on the capacities of oil fields and natural gas reserves. He predicted that the petroleum production of a reserve over time would resemble a bell curve, peaking when half of the petroleum has been extracted, and then falling off. At the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, Hubbert made the prediction that overall oil production would peak in the United States in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. He became famous when this prediction came true in 1970. The curve he used in his analysis is known as the Hubbert curve, and the peak of the curve is known as the Hubbert peak.

Between October 17, 1973, and March 1974, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) ceased shipments of petroleum to the United States, causing what has been called the 1973 energy crisis. In 1975, with the United States still suffering from high oil prices, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed their acceptance of Hubbert's calculations on oil and natural gas depletion, and acknowledged that their earlier, more optimistic estimates had been incorrect. This gathered great media attention for Hubbert.

Originally convinced that solar power was too diffuse to be used, by 1988 at age 85 Hubbert had reversed his position and believed that solar power would be a practical replacement for fossil fuels.


Hubbert was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was long affiliated with the Geological Society of America, receiving their Arthur L. Day Medal in 1954, being elected President of the Society in 1962, and receiving the Society's Penrose Medal in 1973. He received the Vetlesen Prize from the G. Unger Vetlesen foundation and Columbia University in 1981.


  • National Academy of Sciences (1990), Tribute to M. King Hubbert. Printed in "Letter to Members", Volume 19--Number 4, April 1990. Available at Tribute to M. King Hubbert, accessed at July 27, 2004.
  • Hubbert's biography and quotes on Hubbert Peak of Oil Production M. King Hubbert. Accessed March 27, 2005.

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