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In Memoriam: Thomas Wilson Dibblee Jr.

Thomas Wilson Dibblee Jr., once called “the man who mapped California,” died on Nov. 17 at the age of 93, at his home in Santa Barbara. He was suffering from leukemia.

Dibblee and his co-worker Mason Hill first published research in 1953 suggesting that the San Andreas Fault had moved almost 350 miles, work that later became part of the plate tectonic theory. Dibblee covered huge swaths of California on foot, mapping as he went, beginning with his childhood landscape in southern California. Actively mapping for more than 60 years, Dibblee was publishing his maps through his birthday last October.

Dibblee’s legacy and a foundation in his name remain to advance traditional field mapping. George Billingsley, the recipient of the 11th Dibblee Medal last October, says that the cadre of mapping geologists has steadily eroded, without a new generation of geologists to take their place. A general misconception that the country is mapped has led to loss of funding, he says, but “it is mapped on a very general scale in most areas,” with detailed geologic information lacking for issues such as water and resource management.



Dibblee Geological Foundation
Geotimes profile of Thomas Dibblee, May 1992, hosted on the Dibblee Foundation page

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