Academic roots

About a month ago Jessica Ball of Magma cum Laude posted up her geologic genealogy – the premise being that you trace back your PhD supervisor’s supervisor and so on. Her post had in turn been triggered by this one from Ian Stimpson of Hypocentre. I made a cursory start at doing my own, but struggled to get very far before work got in the way.

However, I was provided something of a boost a couple of weeks ago when I met Alan Smith, who supervised my own supervisor back in the 70’s.  So here is as far as I’ve got so far…

(Slight caveat: I had 3 PhD supervisors, so this is only one branch.  I’ll attempt to trace the others in the coming months and see what kind of bizarre science incest turns up in my supervision history. The university in brackets is that which awarded the PhD. and when)
  • Me (London, 2010)
  • Martin Menzies (Cambridge, 1974)
  • Alan Smith (Princeton, 1963)
  • John Maxwell (Princeton, 1946)
  • Harry Hess (Princeton, 1932)
  • Arthur Buddington (Princeton, 1916)
  • Charles H. Smyth (Heidelberg?)

And at this point my detective skills fail me.  I struggled to find any information on C.H. Smyth prior to about 1900, and a single fleeting reference to him having come from Heidelberg.  I may take this up again if I find some free time, or by some weird chance get a steer in the right direction from someone.

So, in summary – a plethora of top-notch geochemists and petrologists.  It’ll be interesting to see how the other two branches of my tree turn out – I’m expecting one to be fairly volcanological (Pete Kokelaar as the start point), and the other concentrated in Physics (Dave Waltham as the start). I’ll let you know!

Finally, a little gem I discovered as I was meandering down a blind alley of early 20th Century Princeton history – a letter from N.L. Bowen (a very well known geologist for those of you not in the field) to a colleague:

April 29, 1948 

Dear Professor Gilluly:

 Having had occasion some years ago to learn the art of lipreading I noticed yesterday when I was giving my paper that at the end of each of my sentences you said, “Horse shit”. Evidently you had made special note of the word “equilibria” in the title of my paper and were from time to time reminding yourself and your neighbors of the gist of the discussion. You are, however, under a misapprehension as to the derivation of the word “equilibria”. It does not come from equus = a horse and libria = things liberated or discharged, but is from quite different roots. If you will consult a chemist you will be able to learn the real significance of the word and I may add that I feel that one so highly placed in geological circles as you should make it a point to acquire some familiarity with the exact significance of common terms used in collateral sciences.

 Trusting that you will not resent my correction and suggestions, I am

 Yours sincerely, 

Norman L. Bowen

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in General, Geology, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Academic roots

  1. Jess Hamer says:

    Far too much time on your hands!

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