Dr. Mahdi Hantush
Founder of NMT Hydrology Program
Information provided courtesy of Dr. Stavros Papadopulos
In Memoriam, NMT:
With his analytical work on leaky aquifers and well hydraulics, Mahdi Salih Hantush has earned a prominent place among practitioners of scientific hydrology. A civil engineer by training, he began his professional career as an irrigation engineer in his native Iraq. This work provided him with practical experience and an appreciation for the problems involved in the development and management of water resources.
Hantush possessed a brilliant analytical mind dedicated to the conceptualization of groundwater flow to wells. His goal and his life’s work was the mathematical investigation of the interaction of wells with groundwater flow under diverse boundary conditions, such as interaquifer leakage or unsteady state flow, and the formulation of sophisticated results in closed form so that they could be useful to the practicing groundwater engineer.
International Student Organization: Left to Right - Back Row: Surendra Mathur, Kamal Saad, Syed Hasan, Fernando Soto, (name unknown), Ahmad Hassan, Ghazar Boulos, Jean-Claude Tricoire, Professor Marx Brook, President E. J. Workman, Moid Ahmad, Stavros Papadopulos. Front Row: Abou-Bakr Ibrahim, Dr. Iqbal Hantush, Muzaffer Haider, Professor Mahdi Hantush, (name unknown), Maria Angelica Hael.
In order to better prepare himself for the task ahead, he came to the U.S. where he obtained an MSc. in Irrigation Engineering at UC Berkeley in 1947. He followed this up with a doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Utah under C.E. Jacob, himself an eminent hydrologist, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. This association with Jacob determined the direction of Hantush’s professional career. In his dissertation (1949) he developed and expanded Jacob’s theory of leaky aquifers to deal with numerous complex situations encountered in the field. This work, published jointly with Jacob in a number of classic papers, brought him wide recognition and wetted his appetite for further research into well hydraulics.
In 1954 Hantush received a call to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where he developed one of the first graduate programs in groundwater hydrology and headed it for over a decade. His program attracted students from all over the world. Hantush was a teachers’ teacher and a gentlemen’s gentleman.Mahdi Hantush (front row second from left) with some international visitors and colleagues at Kuwait University.
He was author of a classical treatise, “Hydraulics of Wells,” and numerous scientific papers. One of his most outstanding papers was “Preliminary Quantitative Study of the Roswell Groundwater Reservoir, New Mexico” (1957). This basin contains a complex system of leaky confined and phreatic aquifers that gave him the opportunity to apply his leaky aquifer theories and the methods he had developed for the analysis of pumping tests.
In 1968 Hantush became the fourth recipient of GSA’s O.E. Meinzer award (PDF) in recognition of his leadership of the field of well hydraulics. --Fred Phillips and Gerardo Gross, 1997