Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM
EDWIN DINWIDDIE MCKEE: A LIFE IN STRATIGRAPHY WRIT GRAND
Edwin Dinwiddie McKee (1906-1984) is well remembered for the great volume of his contributions to the natural history of the Grand Canyon. Within the discipline of geology in particular, he wrote extensively on the stratigraphy and sedimentology of Grand Canyon strata and related investigations. Leaving formal education in 1929 with a BS and one semester of graduate school at Cornell, he took a posting as Chief Naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park. Most of his early geological research was conducted during his days off. He produced work was so original, innovative, prodigious and clearly reported that many of his papers and monographs remained primary references for decades after their publication and are still cited in textbooks nearly thirty years after his death. His ability to relate the minutiae of sediments and fossils to broad geography enabled him to apply practical methods of tracing key beds from one area to another. His 1938 monograph The Environment and History of Toroweap and Kaibab Formations of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah
was the first American publication that identified lateral facies changes. As importantly, he was not content to speculate regarding the origins of sedimentary structures found in ancient strata and instead carved open modern analogs to observe their genesis directly, and, when stumped for a modern analog, recreated structures in his sedimentation laboratory.
In the late 1930’s McKee became assistant director for research at the Museum of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff, and later chaired the Department of Geology at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Northern Arizona. In the late 1950’s, McKee moved to the U. S. Geological Survey in Denver, where he directed the Paleotectonic Maps Section; led early investigations on Kapingamarangi Atoll; completed monographs on the Redwall Limestone, the Supai Group, and other strata of the Grand Canyon; and conducted inquiries into modern eolian sedimentation that resulted in the monograph A Study of Global Sand Seas. McKee gave richly of his time to his profession, creating the Grand Canyon Association, serving (among other posts) as President of the Geological Society of America, and tirelessly and enthusiastically mentored those who followed him in the profession.