The global contributions to geology of the late Peter Alfred Ziegler Switzerland and the late David Gwyn Roberts of Wales made such an impact on academia and industry that two special memorial sessions have been scheduled in their honor at the AAPG’s International Conference and Exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey in September.
Both were Honorary members of AAPG, and both left behind a legacy of geologic knowledge and insight that most believe will be felt for generations to come.
“Regional Tectonics: A Memorial Session Honoring Peter Ziegler” will be held Tuesday morning, Sept. 16, in a session chaired by AAPG members Keith Gerdes and Andrea Moscariello.
“Exploration in Frontier Areas: A Memorial Session Honoring Dave Roberts” will be held that same afternoon, in a session chaired by Gerdes and AAPG member Michael Simmons.
The invited papers will honor what both men brought to the world of geosciences.
So who were these men – and exactly what is being remembered in these sessions?
Peter Alfred Ziegler
(Nov. 2, 1928 – July 19, 2013)
Perhaps known most for compiling the Geological Atlas of Western and Central Europe, Peter Alfred Ziegler is remembered for integrating four primary areas of geological study: tectonics, basin evolution, stratigraphy and petroleum geology.
Capable of putting highly complex pieces of the earth’s puzzle together, Ziegler spent much of his career mapping the subsurface of the earth in western and central Europe in a geological atlas that became a benchmark publication in 1982 (and revised in 1990).
Building upon existing data, Ziegler took information from pervasive rock outcroppings, bore holes, vegetation and other sources, and applied his knowledge of tectonic evolution and its linkage to sedimentary basin systems known for oil and gas rich reservoirs.
For western and central Europe, the atlas became the impetus for the dawn of successful hydrocarbon exploration. Today, many consider northwest Europe one of the best-documented hydrocarbon provinces in the world, and the foundation for the development of one of the world’s foremost hydrocarbon provinces.
“I had the great privilege to meet him in the Netherlands when he was working for Shell in the Hague, and I closely collaborated with him for over 30 years,” said Sierd Cloetingh, professor of tectonics at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“Peter was deeply respected by the Netherlands scientific community,” Cloetingh said, “evidenced by his membership of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and his honorary doctorate at Delft University of Technology.”
What most may not realize is that much of Ziegler’s work on the atlas was performed in his spare time, out of the sheer joy of playing detective, said AAPG member Andrea Moscariello, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Geneva.
“He had an extremely inquisitive mind, and he was extremely intelligent and always asked the right questions of himself. He was a person of uncommon ability to put all of the elements together,” Moscariello said.
Ziegler’s career consisted of 20 years of university teaching and research and 33 years as an exploration geologist in the petroleum industry, working for Shell in Canada and in the Netherlands.
At the university level, he was revered by many students for his ability to communicate complex subject matter in simple terms – just as he did in his atlas, making it highly accessible for students and young geologists, Moscariello said.
Ziegler also is noted for two equally important publications: the “Evolution of the Arctic-North Atlantic and the Western Tethys,” published in 1988, and the “Evolution of Eurasia,” published in 1989.
He retired from Shell in 1988 but continued a very active geological career, publishing widely in international journals and thematic volumes on the processes controlling extensional and compressional intraplate tectonics and on the evolution of the lithosphere.
In 1992 he was appointed Honorary Lecturer at the University of Basel, and in 1996 as Titular Professor for Global Geology.
He was elected Fellow of the Geological Society in 1978 and made Honorary Fellow in 1983. In 1988 he received the William Smith Medal and in 1992 gave the William Smith Lecture on “Plate-Moving Mechanisms: Their Relative Importance.”
He also was honored by the AAPG as a Distinguished Lecturer, and by the Belgian Geological Society, the Royal Geological and Mining Society of the Netherlands, the Geological Society of Glasgow, the Geosciences Union, the German Geological Society and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences for his work.
“I consider Peter Ziegler the father of modern sedimentary basin analysis,” Cloetingh said. “By putting basins in their lithospheric context, constrained by high-quality data sets including seismic reflection data and tectonic reconstructions, he set the stage for quantitative data-interactive basin studies.
“Peter was an immensely important bridge between industry and academic research on basins,” he added. “He generously shared his vast knowledge and insights gathered through his numerous studies on basins around the globe with the community at large.
“He was a true giant, both as a person and as a geologist.”
David Gwyn Roberts
(Jan. 4, 1943 – July 5, 2013)
Many tributes have been written to honor AAPG Honorary member David Gwyn Roberts, also known as “DGR,” who has been described as a quintessential oceanographer/geoscientist, oil explorer, author, teacher and mentor.
His accomplishments span his multiple careers, and he can be considered one of the most influential geoscientists of his generation, said Keith Gerdes, AAPG European Region president and global exploration adviser for Shell International.
Realizing that marine geology and geophysics were areas in which major contributions to geoscience could be made – especially in the wake of Frederick Vine’s and Drummond Matthews’ 1963 publication on seafloor spreading and the mechanisms of plate tectonics – Roberts left his post-doctoral studies to join the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in the United Kingdom to study the oceans of the world.
His work focused on the structural and stratigraphic evolution of the continental margins of the North Atlantic, which he studied in collaboration with the major French institutions such as the Institut Francais du Petrole (IFP). The concepts developed in his publications with Lucien Montadert and other co-workers during this time established many of the basic principles for the future study of continental margins, Gerdes said.
Roberts subsequently was made a doctor of science by the University of Manchester, his alma mater, for this groundbreaking work.
In 1981, Roberts joined the oil and gas industry, leading a new basin studies and sequence stratigraphy group for BP, where he identified an urgent need for formal geosciences training. This led to Roberts’ creating a suite of iconic courses based on the principles of play-based exploration and technical excellence.
Working with the many geoscientists he trained through these courses, Roberts was responsible for major exploration successes for BP in the Gulf of Mexico, Egypt, Angola, Africa and the Far East.
In recognition of his dedication to science and to others, BP elevated him to the role of “Distinguished Advisor in Exploration” – the highest technical leadership role in the company.
“His influence and impact on our thinking and understanding of geoscience, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, were profound,” wrote AAPG member Mike Bowman, professor of development and production geology at the University of Manchester, in a November 2013 issue of the AAPG BULLETIN.
“His legacy will live on in those he mentored,” Bowman wrote, “and in his enormously influential contributions to the science of geology.”
After 22 years of service Roberts retired from BP but continued to work practically full-time, consulting with numerous oil companies and government organizations. He chaired and co-chaired major conferences and played active roles in various societies and advisory panels.
He was Honorary Fellow at The Royal Holloway College, University of London; a visiting professor at the IFP in Paris; and a Senior Research Fellow at the Southampton Oceanography Centre.
Roberts also was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Marine and Petroleum Geology and author of more than 80 publications and books, culminating in his magnum opus, “The Regional Geology and Tectonics of the World” (three volumes, 2,500 pages), which he co-edited with his great friend, AAPG Honorary member Bert Bally.
His numerous awards and citations include: two Certificates of Merit, the Distinguished Service Award and the Robert H. Dott Memorial award from AAPG; and the Petroleum Medal and prestigious Coke Medal from the Geological Society of London.
Roberts was made an Honorary member of the AAPG in 2001 and served as president of the European Region. In 2006, he was made an honorary member of the Geological Society of America (GSA), an award bestowed on only two non-Americans each year.
His knowledge of geoscience has often been described as “encyclopedic,” yet he is also remembered for his unique ability to motivate and inspire other scientists.
“It is these attributes as much as his professional achievements that explain why he was held with such warmth, respect and genuine affection by those who were fortunate enough to work and learn from him,” Gerdes said.
“It is why his passing is so keenly felt by the global geoscience community.”