THE LIFE AND TIMES OF E-AN ZEN
E-an entered graduate studies at Harvard in 1951; this is where the Skinners met him, where our lifelong friendship began, and where in 1954, E-an was a member of our wedding party. In 1974 Brian was a member of a Yale faculty group invited to visit Chinese centers of higher education. E-an’s mother, by then a widow, lived in Shanghai, and a short visit was permitted, albeit in the presence of a government official. Twenty seven years had passed since the day since Madam Chen had left E-an at Cornell. China had been through a massive revolution and limited correspondence had been through censor-examined letters. Madam Chen had endless questions about her son, by now a distinguished international scientist, but one question was pressing, “Does he have a sense of humor?” Indeed he had a great sense of humor and it stood him in good stead no matter what challenges he faced.
E-an’s PhD thesis on the Taconic Allochthon in Vermont, addressed a problem to which he returned repeatedly through the years, and which he often said was his best piece of work. In many respects E-an was a polymath, and he contributed to many geological topics, but he was particularly interested in scientific education and public communication. Soon after retiring from the USGS in1989 E-an was elected President of the GSA. In his Presidential address, titled “The Citizen-Geologist”, he laid out his thoughts on education and communication by examining the roles that geologists should play in the well-being of the world—all geologists should read his words.
E-an was an exemplary geologist, a great humanist, and a responsible world citizen.