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In Memoriam:
Jerry P. Eaton
Jesse Daniel Skelton


Jerry P. Eaton
William L. Ellsworth and William H. K. Lee

Jerry P. Eaton, a pioneer of seismic networks for monitoring volcanoes and earthquakes, died April 2, 2004, age of 77, after a long battle with cancer. Eaton’s passion for the development of dense instrumental networks for monitoring tectonic activity advanced microearthquake seismology to the forefront in studies of earthquakes and volcanoes.

The importance of dense networks is widely understood today, but Eaton was among the first to demonstrate their value. In this way, he set the foundation in the 1950s and 1960s for subsequent evolution of techniques and instrumentation for studies of local seismicity, regional strain and seismic refraction applied to studies of crustal structure.

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953, Eaton joined the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, where he spent the next eight years developing the modern arena of volcano monitoring. In 1960, Eaton and K. Murata published a classic paper in Science describing how magma rises from 50 to 60 kilometers below Kilauea into a shallow reservoir, and how eruptions occur when the reservoir magma pressure exceeds the strength of the volcano.

In 1965, Eaton moved to Menlo Park, Calif., where he became a key player in establishing the USGS earthquake research program and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. He championed the importance of observing Earth’s processes at their noise level with dense networks and of systematically cataloging earthquake phenomena. Eaton’s objective was not just to study selected parts of the San Andreas Fault, but rather to observe the system as a whole, a goal that was realized in the early 1980s when end-to-end coverage of the San Andreas Fault was completed.

Eaton’s classic study of the aftershocks of the Parkfield earthquake of 1966 clearly demonstrated the value of dense networks. He established how a precisely located earthquake could be used to elucidate tectonic processes by revealing the structural elements, crustal structure and stress fields.

Jerry Eaton was a pioneer, blazing his own new path. He left a trail for others to follow and encouraged many colleagues to excel. He was a dedicated scientist and a wonderful colleague, and he leaves a rich legacy for future generations of seismologists.


Ellsworth is the chief scientist of the USGS Earthquake Hazards Team, and Lee is a scientist emeritus at the USGS in Menlo Park, Calif.

Jesse Daniel Skelton
Lee Lawyer

On March 17, 2004, Jesse Daniel Skelton died at the age of 80. A well-rounded individual, Skelton gave 43 years of continuous service to Exxon as vice president of exploration research, before retiring and founding the Montgomery Philosophical Society. “Jesse Daniel Skelton will be fondly remembered for inspiring others to see the beauty of their world through his eyes,” said Mary Sue Timmerman, mayor of Montgomery, Texas, on a Web site created in Skelton’s honor.

A member of the “Greatest Generation,” Skelton served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a navigator in the Air Transport Command during World War II. Skelton attended Wichita University, and he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering with high honors from Kansas State University in 1948 and a master’s from Oklahoma State University in 1954. He was a member of Eta Kappa Nu, Sigma Tau and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies.

Skelton was very active in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG); he was the general chair of the convention in Houston in 1971, was vice president of the society from 1972 to 1973 and served as president from 1974 to 1975. In 1982, he was awarded honorary membership in SEG for his distinguished contributions to the society and his profession. He was also president of the American Geological Institute in 1976.

Skelton is survived by Gloria, his wife of 59 years, and his daughters Janet Wood and Linda Renner. He had nine grandchildren and one great grandson. A devout Christian, Skelton served as a deacon in Memorial Baptist Church in Tulsa and the Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, and most recently as an elder in the Walden Community Church in Montgomery, Texas.


Lawyer, author of the The Leading Edge column “From the Other Side,” retired in 1992 from Chevron as the corporation’s chief geophysicist. Like Dan Skelton, he is a past president of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and currently serves on its foundation board.

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