A Hero on Mount St. Helens: The Life and Legacy of David A. Johnston (Paperback)

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Serendipity placed David Johnston on Mount St. Helens when the volcano rumbled to life in March 1980. Throughout that ominous spring, Johnston was part of a team that conducted scientific research that underpinned warnings about the mountain. Those warnings saved thousands of lives when the most devastating volcanic eruption in U.S. history blew apart Mount St. Helens, but killed Johnston on the ridge that now bears his name. Melanie Holmes tells the story of Johnston's journey from a nature-loving Boy Scout to a committed geologist. Blending science with personal detail, Holmes follows Johnston through encounters with Aleutian volcanoes, his work helping the Portuguese government assess the geothermal power of the Azores, and his dream job as a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Interviews and personal writings reveal what a friend called "the most unjaded person I ever met," an imperfect but kind, intelligent young scientist passionately in love with his life and work and determined to make a difference.

About the Author

Melanie Holmes graduated from St. Xavier University in Chicago. She is the author of The Female Assumption, recipient of a 2014 Global Media Award from the Population Institute. She is also a speaker, educator, and freelance writer.

Praise For…

"A well-balanced and authentic view of David--where he came from, who he was, what the influences on his worldview were, and especially his sense of urgency about the unfolding situation at Mount St. Helens in spring 1980. Volcanoes are complex features; Melanie Holmes explains scientific ideas in a clear, straightforward manner that make them more accessible to a broad, non-specialist audience."--Tom Casadevall, former acting director for the U.S. Geological Survey

"The intertwined personal life of David Johnston with Mount St. Helens geology and the challenges of dangerous research have, in this story, produced an incredibly engaging saga. A beautiful tribute to a scientist and to science."--Robbie Rice Gries, author of Anomalies: Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917–2017 and president of the Geological Society of America

"Read this book--you will receive an excellent and understandable description of a volcanic eruption and a moving chronicle of the making of a geologist from a boy to a man."--Vicki S. McConnell, former State Geologist of Oregon

"Anyone who aspires to be a scientist or is curious about the wonder and fury of volcanoes will be inspired and mesmerized by Dave's story of courage and selflessness in the pursuit of knowledge to protect all of us from harm."--Christine McEntee, CEO/Executive Director of the American Geophysical Union

"This wonderful book has several subjects; volcanology, natural disasters and human behavior, heroism, and the life of one particular man. This is an engrossing read that is absorbingly suspenseful, despite the fact that readers know the outcome. David Johnston, the hero of the story, is a multi-dimensional, complex character. Holmes shows an understanding of human psychology and has a gift for evoking personality with a few verbal gestures. We come to know David Johnston and the part he plays in the human drama surrounding Mount St. Helens. Unforgettable."--Mary V. Dearborn, author of Ernest Hemingway: A Biography
"Highly recommended." --Choice
Product Details
ISBN: 9780252084317
ISBN-10: 0252084314
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication Date: May 18th, 2019
Pages: 240