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GSA Today

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Topic: Memorials

This afternoon I was thumbing through the recently arrived GSA Today (July 2006), and I came across the page soliciting GSA memorials (v. 16, no. 7, p. 24). I paused over this because there were some names from this year that I expected to (and did) see. I was pleased to see that there are memorials in progress for Professors Leopold and Maxwell. But then I looked a little harder.

I make it 204 GSA members since 2003 without a memorial; seems a large number to me. Then I looked yet harder and put check marks next to the names that I, a not-especially-distinguished geologist, had some direct contact with in, say, 35 years: 16 members. Perhaps a fair sampling. Some I knew quite well, while as a student or as a colleague; others I knew slightly from the occasional meeting, perhaps through some correspondence, or a name that signaled a need to read a new paper. And then I looked harder still, seeing in the list some special names, not in bold, with no asterisk: dead more than a year and no memorial in progress.

The earth sciences are, necessarily, a deeply historical study. What then does it mean if, across the whole of our Society, we cannot develop a memorial statement for scientists like Konrad Krauskopf, John Rodgers, or Tom Dibblee? Are we really so busy as that? Can their colleagues over decades in academic departments or at the Geological Survey really not find the time for a few words? Is our sense of community so fragile that people who contributed as much as they — and I use them only as examples — are no longer seen as part of our community? But what sort of community is it that sees itself only in the current moment? Krauskopf, Rodgers, and Dibblee are heroes to me, exemplars of our profession. Shall we no longer praise our famous men (and women)?

I suggest no criticism of GSA Today, nor of GSA as a formal organization, and not necessarily even criticism of ourselves. Rather, I wish to ask if we should consider through this matter what we think we mean when we call ourselves a “Society.” Do we believe it means, at least in part, being a community with some continuity over time? If it does, or if it might, are there things we can and should do to preserve the historical connections with our predecessors — including, but not limited to, the giants on whose shoulders we stand in an effort to see farther?

Respectfully submitted,
Mark J. Logsdon
Aptos, CA


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