John Sealy Livermore, an exploration geologist who grew up in Ross and helped discover gold in Nevada, died at his home in Reno on Feb. 7. He was 94.

Born in San Francisco in on April 16, 1918, Mr. Livermore was the son of famed Marin conservationist Caroline Livermore, who helped form the Marin Conservation League and had the highest peak on Angel Island named after her.

Educated at Stanford University, Mr. Livermore first became interested in geology on a summer oil exploration trip to Alaska.

Mr. Livermore played a pivotal role in events that changed the course of mining history in Nevada and arguably the world. Mr. Livermore theorized that "microscopic" gold existed in Nevada so fine it could not be "panned" or seen by the naked eye.

A few low-grade deposits were known, but he wanted to develop a scientific way of finding more. In the fall of 1961, combining detailed geologic work, geochemical exploration, knowledge of the country and a few hunches, Mr. Livermore and colleague Alan Coope drilled near Carlin, Nevada and staked several claims on Newmont's behalf.

These claims became the highly profitable Carlin Mine, and turned out to be just a portion of the much larger Carlin Trend, which is five miles wide by 40 miles long.

Similar to John Marshall discovering gold at Sutter's Mill in 1849, the rush for Nevada's "invisible gold" was on and continues to this day. The Carlin Trend currently produces over 4 million


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ounces of gold annually, contributing $1.8 billion to Nevada's economy and employing thousands.

It has already produced more gold than was mined or discovered in either the California Gold Rush or the Comstock Lode. By 2008, mines in the Carlin Trend had produced over 70 million ounces of gold, worth around $85 billion, making it one of the richest gold mining districts in the world.

Seldom acknowledging this historic achievement and discovery, Mr. Livermore was described as a humble man who always lived modestly. Despite his Marin roots, Mr. Livermore was happiest roaming the high sagebrush deserts of Nevada, rock hammer in hand. Dust covered his field vehicle and ore samples and topographic maps littered the back seat.

Mr. Livermore also served on the Board of the California Academy of Sciences. The third of five brothers, Mr. Livermore never married.

Mr. Livermore is survived by his brother Putnam Livermore, and 12 nieces and nephews. A private memorial celebration will be held at Montesol Ranch in the Napa Valley this spring, and plans are under way for a celebration of Mr. Livermore's life in Reno. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Nevada's Mackay School of Earth Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences, or a charity of your choice.

Contact Mark Prado via email at mprado@marinij.com

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©2013 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

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