Kenneth Deffeyes, professor of geosciences, emeritus, died Nov. 29, 2017
I was one of many undergraduates in Prof Deffeyes ‘Rocks for Jocks’ courses, and very much enjoyed his lectures and the material. I brought a strangely-shaped rock to him after class one day, for identification, and told him that I’d found it in a chalk mine in Dorset, England: he identified it in about 5 seconds as a nickel-containing nodule. I’d thought it was a meteorite due to the squashed lower half and presence of metallic sparkles, and was slightly disappointed in the ID, but impressed with his recognition of it. Years later I read his Hubbert’s Peak book with great interest, having remembered his lectures on oil production and reserve calculations.
What a great resource he was, and his writings and teaching are, to have traveled and understood so much of world geology. I am not an academic nor a geologist, but am willing to bet his width and depth of experience, combined with dedication to teaching undergraduates, are very rare.
Prof. Joseph Kirschvink’s recollection of Ken doing back-of-the-envelope calculations and then building a conversion kit for the Debye-Scherrer camera using a cardboard roll and toothpicks is pure Ken Deffeyes. Smart, quick, and perfectly happy to do engineering work to solve a problem. He was a lifelong inspiration to me. And Guy Pinneo is spot on in his comment above: Ken’s commitment to undergraduate education was remarkable and paid great dividends for the Department, the university, and the applied earth sciences.
The Freshman Seminar I had the chance to take in Spring of 1997 with Ken and Jason Morgan changed my life and set me on a previously unimagined career track. The semester introductory geology course, topped with a week of field work on the Isle of Arran not only introduced us to the earth sciences, but also the giants of the field: Deffeyes and Morgan introduce students to Hutton’s unconformity in situ! What an introduction!
I only heard him speak a few times, but his work had a big impact on my life. RIP Prof Deffeyes
My favorite hilarious statement of his was on tv circa 2005 or 2006) where he was talking about Hubbert’s Pimple and whether we’d really run out of oil or not (naturally his one “other had” that got us out of that was horizontal drilling) was to describe himself as “mid-career” when he was in his 80s.
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