Northeastern Section - 56th Annual Meeting - 2021

Paper No. 11-1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


VAREKAMP, Johan, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer was born in Indonesia from Dutch parents, and during World War II he was interned on Java. He escaped from his confinement, and as a young boy made his way back to Holland. He went to school in the small town of Baarn, where his neighbour, the famous Dutch artist M.C. Escher, took him under his wing. Jelle went on to the University of Utrecht, where he did a PhD with Van Bemmelen, an expert in Indonesian geology, and the main proponent of the "undation theory". Jelle studied the paleomagnetism of rocks in N-Italy and proposed that Italy had shifted many km from an original position well outside the Mediterranean realm. This was the era in geology where continental drift started to become a concept, and large lateral continental motions became the basis for many new hypotheses. In 1963, Jelle and his wife Felie made the move to the USA after he secured a postdoctoral position at Wesleyan University in CT, working with USGS scientists in the fledgling field of paleomagnetism. His postdoc was converted into a faculty position, and Jelle worked till his retirement at Wesleyan, and passed away in 2016. His early paleomagnetic work was on the CAMP dikes and flows in CT, trying to determine which dike was feeding which flow. Jelle collaborated with many other scientists in the USA (e.g., Paul Ragland, Bob Ballard) and he made a dive in the Atlantic with the Alvin. Subsequently, Jelle worked with Wesleyan students in the Philippines, Costa Rica and Greece for many years, including work on the Delphi oracle. He educated many foreign students in the Wesleyan Masters Program, and leading scientists and directors of the Philippine and Indonesian geological surveys all shared a Wesleyan graduate degree obtained under Jelle's advisorship. Jelle has an extensive research record but later in life he found his true calling. He wrote four popular science books on 'Volcanology and human civilization', 'Earthquakes and human history', 'Stories in Stone', and "New Haven's Sentinels - The art and science of East Rock and West Rock. Jelle will always be remembered for his inspiring teaching at the college level, many talks for the general public, creating a motivation in so many people to "learn more about geology'. His energy and enthusiasm and his sometimes unusual takes on geological concepts were a great inspiration for many students and colleagues.