30 January 2012
What’s your geologic genealogy?
Posted by Jessica Ball
Every once in a while this topic pops up among geologists – and the phrase “who is your grandfather” really means “who was your advisor’s advisor?” It’s kind of fun to trace your geologic heritage, so I thought I’d give mine a go. (Dr. Ian Stimpson over at Hypo-theses did his a couple of weeks ago.) This usually involves looking at graduate degrees (most people don’t list who their undergraduate advisor was, and when you go back farther in time they rarely talk about anything but who the person studied under for their PhD).
It starts off with my graduate advisor, Dr. Eliza Calder, who teaches here at Buffalo (but also taught at the Open University):
She studied with Dr. Steve Sparks, who teaches at the University of Bristol:
He studied with Dr. George P. L. Walker (1926-2005), who taught at the University College of London and the University of Hawai’i.
Who studied with Dr. William Quarrier Kennedy (1903-1979), who worked for the Geological Survey of Great Britain and taught at the University of Leeds:
Who studied with Dr. John Walter Gregory (1864-1932), who worked at the Natural History Museum in London and taught at the University of Melbourne and University of Glasgow:
Who, as far as I can tell, didn’t study with anyone in particular (he seems to have embarked on a program of self-study at the University of London for his bachelor’s and doctorate). So the farthest I can go back is to my academic great-great-great-grandfather, who was known for his work on glacial geology and on the geography and geology of Australia and East Africa. He was also supposed to be the scientific director on Scott’s 1901-1904 expedition to Antarctica, but resigned after a fight over whether the navy or the scientists were going to be in charge.
It’s interesting to see that (mainly because of my advisor being from the UK), my academic heritage goes right back to one of the first well-known British geologists. It’s also neat to see how specialties changed over the years; Drs. Calder, Sparks and Walker are mainly volcanologists, Dr. Kennedy specialized in “magmatism and tectonics” but published about a pretty wide variety of other topics, and Dr. Gregory specialized in glacial geology but wrote about an even wider range of topics (from geography to sociology).
This might sound like a silly question, but how did you find out who they studied under? Sure, the ones who are still alive are easy to ask, but the others?
Not a silly question at all! I think I looked at a bio to find out where Dr. Sparks did his PhD, and after that I was able to guess from obituaries and biographies (Drs. Walker, Kennedy and Gregory all had write-ups in various society publications in the UK). They also popped up in university archives in a few spots, although my plan of searching ProQuest for thesis holdings didn’t work out so well.
I did mine about a fortnight ago. I got back to the early 1600s and includes Adam Sedgwick and Issac Newton.
Thanks for reminding me! I know someone had done, but I couldn’t figure out who it was. I’ll add the link to the post.
If you think that Masters and PhD could both count then you could have a pretty big branching tree where you look at your advisors Masters and Phd advisors and so on. This sounds interesting. I think I will look it up when I get the chance.
Jessica, please spell genealogy correctly.
Good catch. Thanks.
[…] today, Jessica Ball at Magma Cum Laude, posted a great summary of her “geologic genealogy.” She’s not alone in being asked about her academic lineage, so I thought I would dig […]
[…] a month ago Jessica Ball of Magma cum Laude posted up her geologic genealogy – the premise being that you trace back your PhD […]
I know it’s a bit weird to comment on a blog post that’s over 8 years old, but in these times of pandemic I’ve picked up academic ancestry as a hobby and dug into the life of WQ Kennedy, and downloaded his bio written by Sutton for the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Vol. 26, Nov. 1980, pp. 274-303). The bio notably mentions that Kennedy had a “propensity to quote Professor Paul Niggli, with whom he had studied in Zurich”. Although Kennedy only spent a year in Zurich after his undergrad education, he “returned fluent in German after carrying out research on a magnetite deposit at Traversella”. Although he did not earn his Ph.D. from the ETHZ, “his thesis for the D.Sc. degree at Glasgow awarded in 1932 dealt with his research on Traversella”. From this, I think it fair to say Niggli was a major influence on Kennedy’s work and a mentor figure for his doctoral work, even if he was not affiliated with Glasgow. Niggli’s ancestry is fairly well documented and can be traced back to Grubenman, Kenngott, Glocker, Steffens, Carl Linnaeus, Herman Boerhaave, and the 1600s Leiden medical school. There’s more here if you’re curious! https://academictree.org/geoscience/tree.php?pid=769659