History of the Geological Sciences in the University at Albany

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana (in The Life of Reason (1905-1906) Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense)

The Geological Sciences at Albany consisted of one staff member (Peter Benedict) in the years prior to the promotion of the institution in the early 1960's from a teachers college to one of the four University Centers of the State University of New York. In the years after the creation of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in 1962, several faculty were gradually added in the Geological Sciences (Jack Bird, Win Means, George Putman, and Paul Williams). In 1968, these faculty became the founders of the separate Department of Geological Sciences, soon to be joined by John Dewey, Akiho Miyashiro and Jeff Fox and the establishment of the PhD program. Jack Bird left for Cornell in 1972, and Paul Williams for UNB in 1973; Kevin Burke, Steve Delong, and Bill Kidd arrived in 1973-4. With the pioneering publications of Dewey, Bird, and Burke on the geological consequences of plate tectonics, and the wide visibility of the Structural Geology text of Hobbs, Means and Williams, the Department, while small relative to most others, rapidly achieved international visibility and distinction.
1983 -  Ranked by the National Academy of Sciences in the top 25 PhD-granting graduate programs in Geological Sciences
Dewey departed for Durham (UK) in 1981, Fox for Rhode Island in 1982, and in 1983 Burke left for the directorship of the LPI in Houston, and Peter Benedict retired. Mark Harrison arrived in 1982, John Delano in 1983, and Greg Harper in 1984, so while the Department had a net loss of one faculty position, it rapidly developed strength in geochemistry and maintained a strong presence in the structural and tectonic fields.
1985 - The Department brochure for graduate programs (9MB pdf)

Harrison left for UCLA in 1989, and shortly after that the Department was the victim of a devastation in the failure to replace departing (Harrison), redeployed (Delong), or retiring (Miyashiro, Putman) faculty. This failure to replace 50% of the total Department faculty, some of international distinction, was ultimately a consequence of substantial state-imposed budget cuts, but nonetheless was a deliberate choice of the President and Academic VP of that time. A plan to recover vitality with three new hires in Environmental Geochemistry, and to maintain strength in Structure/Tectonics, was approved by those administrators in 1993-4, and lead to the arrival of Brad Linsley in 1995. A merger with the Atmospheric Science Department in 1996 resurrected the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, but further progress under the previously approved plan for renewal of the Geological Sciences did not happen. Means retired in 1998, leaving four permanent faculty to try to continue to run a PhD-level program. John Arnason's transfer to a tenure-track position in 2004 was a welcome improvement, but on Harper's resignation in December 2004, and the refusal of the administration to authorise a replacement in structure/tectonics, the Department then requested that the BS in Geology be closed to future enrollment. The last undergraduate students majoring in Geological Sciences at Albany graduated in 2009. A few courses containing some geological science occured in the confines of a track of the Environmental Sciences BS degree until Bill Kidd retired (end of 2010), and Brad Linsley resigned (May 2011).

On January 22nd 2007, the faculty of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences voted 10-1 to recommend immediate suspension of admission to the Geology graduate program. On 7 December 2007 the Interim President signed Senate Bill 0708-09  formalising the suspension of admission to the Geology graduate program. The last students graduated from this program in 2009.

Honours and awards to present or former members of the Geological Sciences at Albany

Former and emeritus faculty and staff listing for Geological Sciences

Photos of Department of Geological Sciences groups

Seminars presented by visiting speakers - a continuous series from 1975, started by Kevin Burke
- 1975-1994 at Albany - 1995-2008 joint series with RPI Earth Sciences

PhD degree recipients graduated from the Albany Geological Sciences Program and their dissertation titles
MSc degree recipients graduated from the Albany Geological Sciences Program and their thesis titles

Return to Geological Sciences index page
Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences