William R. Dickinson (1931–2015): Hero of plate tectonics, sedimentary basins, and provenance
Published:December 28, 2018
Raymond V. Ingersoll, Timothy F. Lawton, Richard A. Schweickert, Stephan A. Graham, 2018. "William R. Dickinson (1931–2015): Hero of plate tectonics, sedimentary basins, and provenance", Tectonics, Sedimentary Basins, and Provenance: A Celebration of the Career of William R. Dickinson, Raymond V. Ingersoll, Timothy F. Lawton, Stephan A. Graham
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William Richard Dickinson was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1931 and died in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, in 2015. Through a remarkable combination of intellect, self-confidence, engaging humility, and prodigious output of published work, he influenced and challenged (to date) three generations of sedimentary geologists, igneous petrologists, tectonicists, sandstone petrologists, archaeologists, and other geoscientists.
Bill grew up in the California Transverse Ranges before heading to Stanford, where he received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. While on the Stanford faculty (1958–1979), Bill used a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia to understand the great mobility of Pacific plates, including relationships between inclined seismic zones beneath island arcs and magmatism, and he began a lifelong study of Pacific potsherds for archaeological studies. In 1969, Bill convened the watershed Geological Society of America (GSA) Penrose Conference at Asilomar, California, on “The Meaning of the New Global Tectonics for Magmatism, Sedimentation, and Metamorphism in Orogenic Belts.” An onslaught of new ideas and insights illuminated plate-tectonic processes, sandstone petrology as a guide to plate-tectonic settings, and plate-tectonic evolution of sedimentary basins. This naturally led to syntheses of Cordilleran basins and tectonics, and Pacific plate tectonics. His most cited papers involve the relation of sand(stone) composition to plate tectonics. Following his relocation to the University of Arizona in 1979, Bill began using detrital zircon as an additional provenance tool, resulting in new paleogeographic reconstructions of North America’s drainage patterns for the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic. During Bill’s “retirement,” he received the Penrose Medal, the Sloss Award, the Twenhofel Medal, the Rip Rap Award, and the Stanford Distinguished Alumnus Award. He also became a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served as president of GSA. The cumulative impact of Bill Dickinson’s influence on understanding Earth history and processes has been, and will continue to be, among the greatest in the history of our science. The papers in this volume are an impressive tribute to the depth and breadth of Bill Dickinson’s contributions.