31 March, 2009

Otto Geist

Otto William Geist was an archaeologist, explorer, and naturalist who worked in the circumpolar north and for the University of Alaska for much of his adult life. The Otto William Geist Building, named in his honor, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus houses the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Geist was born in Kircheiselfing, Bavaria, to Franz Antone Geist and his wife. He had 14 brothers and sisters.

Geist came to Alaska in the early 1920s with his brother Josef, and worked for the Alaska Railroad, as an engineer on board the sternwheeler Teddy R., and as a miner in Bettles, Alaska. In 1925 he began collecting Native artifacts and in 1926 began collecting for the university, with support from university president Charles E. Bunnell.

During World War II, Geist helped to organize the Alaska Territorial Guard.