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):

Dr. Calder on our last visit to Guatemala (it was ashy that day, so we were all wearing bandannas)

She studied with Dr. Steve Sparks, who teaches at the University of Bristol:

From Dr. Sparks' bio page at 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.

From the HVO website obituary page.

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:

Image from the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society obituary for Kennedy (http://www.jstor.org/stable/769785?seq=1)

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:

Image from the University of Melbourne Archives via Wikipedia

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).