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Thomas G. Gibson

Marty Buzas
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. 20013-7012

Our esteemed friend and colleague Thomas G. Gibson died at his home in Boyce, Virginia on 9 July 2008. Tom was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received both his bachelors and Masters degrees in geology from the University of Wisconsin. In 1962, he received a Ph.D. in geology from Princeton University. Immediately thereafter, he began his lifelong career with the U. S. Geological Survey. Although a full time employee of the Survey, Tom was also a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University. Taking time off from his Survey duties, he organized and served as the first Chair of the Department of Geology at Howard University. Tom belonged to a number of Professional Societies and was a Fellow of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research.

Tom’s approach to research as well as life might best be described as eclectic. His vision was widespread and he had the ability to synthesize many seemingly unrelated observations into a single framework. We can only cite a few of his numerous contributions to geology and paleontology here. Tom was one of the few geologists who could integrate the biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental analysis of both the Atlantic Coastal Plains and the Gulf Coast. His precise determination of Paleogene global sequences on the Georgia Coastal Plain prompted EXXON to use his field area as a training site for sequence stratigraphy courses. Abroad, his research on foraminiferal sequences on Enewetak led to the development of a theory for the mechanics of nuclear cratering. In Pakistan, he developed an entirely new biostratigraphic framework and paleoenvironmental analysis and, at the same time, trained Pakistanian geologists. He demonstrated that a large area of sediments believed to be of deltaic origin was actually deposited at bathyal depths. In 1969, he helped derive a measure of species evenness or equitability that is widely used by many ecologists today. Tom’s published works will enjoy a long shelf life because they are fundamental contributions.

During his long career, Tom also amassed an impressive foraminiferal collection of Recent as well as fossil foraminifera. These include hundreds of faunal slides picked from stations on numerous traverses across the continental shelf from Nova Scotia to Florida. His collection is now part of the National Museum of Natural History’s Foraminifera Collection and will be used in perpetuity.

Tom’s friendship, collegiality and scientific achievements are testimony to a full life. Along with his children Steve, Karen and Amy and his former wife Carol, we will miss him dearly.


Reproduced From: Journal of Foraminiferal Research, v. 39, no. 1, p. 71-72, January 2009
Memorial to Thomas G. Gibson (pdf version) including selected references.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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