Paleonet: Obituary, Paul S. Martin, 1928-2010

Karl W. Flessa kflessa at
Mon Sep 20 19:50:07 GMT 2010

University of Arizona Emeritus Professor Paul S. Martin died at his home in
Tucson, Arizona on September 13, 2010.


Paul S. Martin joined the Geochronology Laboratory of the University of
Arizona in 1957 and was Professor of Geosciences from 1968 until his formal
retirement in 1989.  Paul is best known worldwide for his studies of
Pleistocene extinctions and for his and his students' work on the ecological
and climatic record of packrat middens.  Paul's long reign on Tumamoc Hill
created a community of scholars, students and just plain folks who wanted to
know about how humans interacted with the rest of nature in the past so that
they could build a better future for both.


Paul Martin was a generous, brilliant and extraordinarily influential
scientist, teacher and mentor.  More than forty years ago, he framed a
scientific question: What was the role of humans in Pleistocene extinctions?
It's the greatest "whodunit" in science.  The data convinced Paul - and many
others - that human activity played a major role.  Others disagreed, and the
issue has engaged generations of scientists, students and the general public
ever since. Paul warmly welcomed both supporters and dissenters.  I've never
seen anything quite like it.  It wasn't just a matter of disarming his
opponents with kindness. Paul really wanted to see things the way they saw
them, to understand even more about his "favorite topic" - Pleistocene


Paul's work bridged ecology, anthropology and paleontology in a way that had
never been done before.  He added deep time to ecological thinking, put
prehistoric humans alongside now-extinct animals, and gave paleontology an
environmental relevance it hadn't previously had.   Paul was always a good
friend and will always be my favorite paleontologist.


An obituary is posted at


The Department of Geosciences has established the Paul S. Martin Quaternary
Studies Fund to support field work in Quaternary geology, anthropology and
paleontology.  Donations may be sent to Paul S. Martin Fund, Department of
Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.  Checks should be made
payable to "Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona"


Karl W. Flessa

Director, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Professor and Head, Department of Geosciences

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721 USA

tel: 520 621-6000 

fax:  520 621-2672


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