Helen Belyea

Helen Belyea, OC FRSC (February 11, 1913 – May 20, 1986) was a Canadian geologist best known for her research of the Devonian System, a geologic period of the Paleozoic era, in Western Canada.

In 1976, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1962, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.Dr. Helen Belyea received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Her doctoral thesis was titled “The Geology of Musquach Area, New Brunswick”. It earned her a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Since Helen Belyea’s childhood, it was shown that she had a passion for geology. She was noticed for her contribution to geology in Alberta, where she spent 35 years with the Geological Survey of Canada. She was one of two geologists sent to open a Calgary office and the only woman to do field work there.

Before she was committed to her true passion of Geology, served as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy, Belyea was hired as a technologist in 1945 by the Geological Survey of Canada, and was promoted to geologist in 1947. After oil was struck at Leduc, Alberta, she was one of two geologists sent in 1950 to monitor the discovery, which she was the only woman to go out into the field. Belyea's many awards included the Barlow Memorial Award for an economic geology paper; she was the first woman honored this way. She was role model to women and encouraged the women around her. She was not fully involved in the feminist movement, but her being a role model alone has helped women all over.

Helen Belyea wrote many papers on the Devonian system of Western Canada. Her papers were not only noticed by her collegues, but they were published. Her first paper was published in 1952. She wrote a paper on reef patters of the plains. She was known best for contributing to the volume on “Geological History of Western Canada”, which is known as “The Atlas.”. In “The Atlas”, she published maps and text for the whole Devonian region. She was able to help create the volume of “The Atlas” because in the late 50’s she helped with a Geological Survey, which mapped the Southern Northwest Territories, she specifically contributed on the region West of Hay River, South of the Mackenzie and her knowledge of the regional geology helped produce a synthesis for the Devonian rocks of that region.

There is more to Dr. Belyea than her being known as a geologist. She was a great athlete and was always active. Things that she enjoyed doing beside geology were mountaineering, skiing, walking, and swimming. She was also an equestrian and rode her horse to many of her field excursions. She rode her horse in the mountains of Alberta, British Columbia and Great Slave Lake area. She was a big traveler, who mainly traveled Europe. During one her travels in France she gave many lectures.

She died in Calgary in 1986 at the age of 73 years.