2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 196-12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


SKINNER, Brian, Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 210 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511 and SKINNER, Catherine, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, Box 208109, New Haven, CT 06520-8109, brian.skinner@yale.edu

Born in 1928, E-an was raised in China by western-educated parents. Following the end of the Japanese war, he accompanied his mother to the United States in 1946, and there studied and excelled for a year at Cambridge High and Latin—his first ever full year of formal schooling. In 1947 E-an enrolled at Cornell, from which his father had graduated in 1916: his mother returned to China to join her husband. Political turmoil prevented E-an from seeing his mother again for more than 30 years.

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.