A STUDENT REMEMBERS JELLE DE BOER AND HIS LEGACY: FINDING A WAY FROM GEOPHYSICS AND GEOLOGY TOWARD TRANSDISCIPLINARITY AND COMPLEXITY
LUTZ, Timothy, Dept of Earth & Space Sciences, West Chester University, 720 S. Church St., West Chester, PA 19383
When I look back down the path I’ve followed, I can clearly see Jelle De Boer at the start of it, pointing the way. As a student at Wesleyan from 1969 to 1973 I embarked on a personalized interdepartmental major – a combination of physics and geology. Jelle taught me structural geology in the classroom, mapping methods in the field, and paleomagnetic techniques in his lab; his influence as a teacher, mentor and role model made a turn toward geology the first change in my path. Jelle suggested a new use for geophysical survey instruments: a magnetometer survey could help to locate walls, graves, and concentrations of pottery at an archeological dig in southern Italy led by Classics professor Steve Dyson. On site in summer 1972 I was part of a team trying to discern patterns of rural life in 4th Century villas. This was a turn toward seeing my future research directed toward human problems as well as rocks; “geologic” tools acquired multidisciplinary flexibility. My senior thesis research on the archaeomagnetism of bricks in the Bulls Falls iron furnace in western Connecticut led Jelle and I to realize that a meaningful interpretation of the magnetic data needed to bring history, geography, economics, resource geology, geophysics, and historical-industrial archaeology into an interdisciplinary perspective. Research on a few bricks turned into a story that extended through many dimensions of 19th century life. This was a sharp turn toward a type of thinking that later blossomed into a transdisciplinary approach to teaching and research.
The spherical statistics I learned from Jelle made statistics and multivariate analysis a large part of my research after Wesleyan, from my 1978 paper on the global pattern of plate boundaries to a 1998 paper on the chemistry of tourmaline. Jelle also taught me to creatively challenge popular hypotheses and accepted wisdom, as in my work on magnetic reversal periodicity and the fractal geometry of ammonoid sutures. I’m not sure Jelle would have wanted to walk all the way on my path: in a turn starting 20 years ago I re-examine the assumptions of science and education in the context of complexity theory including a current manuscript on teaching with data. But his wide open way of thinking made my path possible. My presentation gives further examples of Jelle De Boer’s legacy for me and my students.