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Abstract

Dr. Atl (born Gerardo Murillo in 1875) was the Universal Man of Mexico. In addition to starting the Mexican Mural Movement and launching the careers of such famous artists as Siqueiros, Rivera, and Orozco, he was a revolutionary who, with blazing guns, political intrigue, and innumerable essays, helped to forge the modem Mexican democracy. His first love was volcanoes, and for sixty years he produced an avalanche of sketches, paintings, poems, essays, and monographs devoted to that subject. The mass of paintings and two monographs constitute his main contribution to volcanology.

Between 1911 and 1914 he studied Vesuvius, Etna, and Stromboli under the European volcanologists Perret and Friedlaender. The Mexican volcano Popocatepetl was his favorite mountain. When a crew of sulfur miners awakened it by blasting the crater with dynamite, Dr. Atl prepared a monograph based on decades of personal observations, interviews, Aztec legends, early written reports, sketches, paintings, and historical photographs. He described in detail the first man-made volcanic eruption, which raged in the crater from 1919 to 1938, and formed domes similar to the ones on Mt. St. Helens.

In 1943, when Paricutin erupted from a corn Geld, Dr. Atl raced to the site and started a seven-year study which culminated in the publication of his second scientific monograph. Although Dr. Atl was 75 at the time, his outlook was surprisingly modern. After discussing the ideas of Alfred Wegener, he declared that the forces of continental drift had formed the volcano.

At the age of 83, he sketched and painted a series of oblique landscapes from airplanes. Six years later, in 1964, while working on three murals in Cuernavaca, Dr. Atl died.

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