Johan August Udden, geologist and teacher, was born in Lekasa, Sweden, on March 19, 1859, the son of Andrew Larsen and Inga Lena (Andersdotter) Udden. In 1861 the family moved to the United States and settled in Minnesota. Udden graduated from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, in 1881 and went to Lindsborg, Kansas, where he taught at Bethany College for seven years. He married Johanna Kristina Davis of Carver, Minnesota, in 1882, and they had four children. Udden was a student at the University of Minnesota in 1886. In 1889 he received his M.A. degree from Augustana College, where he was professor of natural history and geology from 1888 until 1911. During this period he worked in the summer months for several geological survey organizations. He was special assistant to the Iowa Geological Survey from 1897 until 1903, geologist for the University of Texas mineral survey in 1903 and 1904, and geologist of the Illinois Geological Survey from 1906 until 1911. He was also special agent of the United States Geological Survey from 1908 until 1914. In 1911 Udden was appointed by the University of Texas as geologist in the Bureau of Economic Geology and Technology; he was promoted to director of the bureau in 1915 and held that position until his death.
At least four honorary degrees were conferred on Udden: D.Phil. at Augustana College in 1900, D.Sc. at Bethany College in 1921 and at Texas Christian University in 1923, and LL.D. at Augustana College in 1929. In 1911, in recognition of his distinguished service to science, he was decorated by the King of Sweden with the Swedish Order of the North Star. Udden was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Sigma Xi, and the Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas academies of science. His fields of investigation included stratigraphic and areal geology, work of the atmosphere, till in the upper Mississippi valley, clastic sediments, and related subjects. His papers published on these subjects number about 100. He discovered potash in the Permian Basin of Texas and was the first to suggest the likelihood of finding oil on university lands in West Texas. Udden died in Austin on January 5, 1932, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.