Memories of Tor … “You can never know enough!” — Dr. Tar Helge Milsen
Published:January 01, 2008
“As a young Assistant Professor, I organized a field trip for a regional GSA meeting. The trip was to examine Precambrian iron ore deposits in Arizona, where I was teaching at the time. Tor was one of about 25 people on the trip. My students and I had been studying the iron ore deposits for some time, but I did not have the complete origin and depositional environment worked out. Nevertheless, I presented a preliminary opinion but forgot to mention that it was ‘preliminary’ Tor about took my head off for most of the day, pointing out various (and many) weaknesses to my hypothesis.
The lesson I learned from him that day was to be very careful when ‘arm waving’ and to have your ‘ducks in a row’ on field trips. I still forget this lesson sometimes while leading a trip, but not as often as I did during those earlier days. Several years later, Tor and I shared a laugh over that memory (he didn’t remember it but I sure did!) over beer and crawdads in a New Orleans airport lounge.”
Figures & Tables
Atlas of Deep-Water Outcrops
Tor H. Nilsen, a red-haired Scandinavian who stood more than six feet tall, died October 9, 2005, at his San Carlos, California, home. This was after a valiant five-year fight with melanoma cancer. He was 63. His ashes were scattered at his family plot in Norway in 2006.
He was born in New York City on November 29, 1941, to Mollie Abrahamson and Nils Marius Nilsen of Mandal, Norway, and was the first of their children to be born in the United States. After graduating from Brooklyn Tech, he earned his B.S. in geology from City College of New York in 1962. While there, his prowess on the basketball court impressed a scout from the New York Knicks, but Tor went on to graduate school and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1964 and 1967, respectively. His M.S. thesis was a study of Precambrian metasedimentary deposits in the Lake Superior area, and his Ph.D. thesis was a study of Devonian alluvial-fan deposits of the Old Red Sandstone in western Norway.
Dr. Nilsen’s principal expertise was in depositional systems analysis, stratigraphic analysis, and the relationships among tectonics, eustasy, and sedimentation. He began his industry career in 1967 as a research geologist with the Shell Development Company in Houston, Texas, and Ventura, California, where he worked on the tectonics and sedimentation of Tertiary shelf systems of coastal California. He subsequently spent two years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the Military