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Allan W. H. Bé—An appreciation


W. A. Ruddimann

Allan Bé died on October 13, 1983 at the age of 52. His death came as a particular shock because of his general youthfulness and his active participation in swimming and cross-country skiing. Allan had, however, been taking medicine for high blood pressure for several years.

The influence of Allan Bé on micropaleontology was immense. He pioneered in planktonic foraminiferal ecology, and in this field remained pre-eminent throughout his working life. In the 1950s and 1960s, his work centered on the geographic and seasonal distribution of planktonic foraminiferal species as the best means of assessing the environmental factors in the ocean (temperature, food, salinity) that control the living foraminiferal species. This phase of his work led to several important early papers (Bé 1959, 1960, 1969) and culminated in the 1970s with a series of definitive papers on a regional and even global scale (Bé and Tolderlund 1971; Tolderlund and Bé 1971; Bé 1977). These geographic studies of living planktonic foraminifera will probably never be superseded, and the papers on seasonal variations will remain definitive at least for this century. Ancillary to these early efforts was the kind of critical taxonomic work (Bé 1966) on which a generation of later work, including the Late Quaternary paleoclimatic efforts of CLIMAP, has been based.

In the second phase of Bé's career, during the 1970s and 1980s, Allan and his colleague 0. Roger Anderson increasingly turned their attention to field and laboratory studies of individual planktonic foraminifera as the best approach to obtaining more specific information on the controlling ecologic factors. Out of this work there emerged a number of original findings: 1) several nearsurface species are hosts to symbionts that enable them to live in nutrient-depleted waters (Anderson and Bé 1976); 2) some species secrete part of their tests in shallow waters but then sink and calcify a final very different layer during gametogenesis (Bé 1965, 1980; Duplessy et al. 1981); and 3) planktonic foraminifera feed not only on phytoplankton but also on other zooplankton (Anderson and Bé 1976; Anderson et al. 1979).

Recent work, only partly completed, examined the responses of planktonic foraminifera to changes in feeding frequency (Bé, Caron and Anderson 1981) and light intensity (Caron, Bé and Anderson 1982).

Over the years, Allan Bé worked with a host of other investigators in co-operative research on a wide range of topics: development of towing nets; the ecology of pteropods and coccoliths; the Late Quaternary paleoceanographic history of the Arctic, Indian, and equatorial Atlantic oceans; dissolution of carbonates; and the use of oxygen and carbon isotopes to define the ecology of planktonic foraminifera.

Allan Bé published at a prolific rate (about five papers per year) to the end of his life. Nearly 100 of his papers were published during his 24-year career. Beyond the quantity of his life's work, the quality of his science will be missed by the micropaleontological community. At the time of his death, Allan Bé was President of the Cushman Foundation.

Reproduced From: Micropaleontology, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1984), pp. 116-119.
Publisher by: The Micropaleontology Project, Inc.
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