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
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