In Memoriam: Russell Gordon Gastil
June 25, 1928 – September 29, 2012
Russell Gordon Gastil, professor emeritus of geology at San Diego State University, passed away at home in La Mesa on the afternoon of Sept. 29 in the loving company of family and friends. Gastil was an internationally renowned geologist for regional geologic mapping and work on the tectonic evolution of convergent margins. He mapped thousands of square kilometers in Arizona, California and Mexico, including the entire state of Baja California. He received the prestigious Dibblee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments in field geology and geologic mapping. Gordon’s insatiable curiosity and geologic insight served as a model for hundreds of San Diego State University students across five decades who learned the art of geologic mapping under his direction.
Gordon’s broad range of interests and remarkable ability to break new ground across scientific disciplines is truly the hallmark of his rich scientific research career. His breadth and originality are well illustrated by his 1960 American Journal of Science paper entitled, “The Distribution of Mineral Dates in Time and Space.” This highly innovative contribution presented the first global synthesis of continental crustal evolution based on radiometric dating and distribution of rock units. This paper validated basic concepts of “orogenic periodicity” and established the basic pattern of global scale episodic continental growth still recognized today.
In 1963, Gastil and Ned Allison secured NSF funding to begin producing a reconnaissance geologic map of the State of Baja California. They hired six undergraduate students that first year (including two from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Ensenada), ordered air photographs, and the quest was on! Most of the mapping was done over the next four years and subsequently published in 1975 as part of Geological Society of America Memoir 140 “Reconnaissance geology of the State of Baja California.” What is remarkable about this mapping feat is not only that it was accomplished with undergraduate students, but that there were no reliable topographic base maps at the time, virtually no paved or graded roads, and the general inaccessibility of large areas made the going extremely tough. Along the way he mapped a large section of the State of Sonora including Tiburon Island on the mainland edge of the Gulf of California. The Baja map remains a primary regional mapping contribution still highly sought after by all Baja California geologists.
Gastil’s mapping experience in Baja California and surrounding areas formed the foundation of his research at SDSU. He freely shared his enthusiasm and ideas with students, colleagues, and anyone else interested in talking geology. He ultimately supervised 58 Master’s theses at SDSU along with many dozens of undergraduate research projects known as “senior reports.” Together with colleagues Ned Allison, Lee Silver and Frank Kilmer he functionally opened the window into geologic investigation of Baja California during the 1960s. He was gifted as a geologic visionary who could see the pattern much like trying to finish a puzzle — he had the passion and drive and creativity to see the big picture and to somehow organize his efforts to put more pieces together. The more pieces he brought together, the more excited he became, accelerating his career with vision and breadth of thought. He shared this vision and methods for finding and seeing the patterns via petrology, chemical analyses, isotopic age dating, paleontology, and a host of other aspects of geology. Understanding the stories that rocks told, he never met a rock he didn’t love, especially an igneous or metamorphic rock. Gastil’s mapping and research in Baja established his position in the upper echelon of Cordilleran geologists early in his career. He was the first to recognize the strong transverse asymmetry across the Peninsular Ranges batholith and its natural separation into distinct western and eastern provinces (a feature independently recognized by Lee Silver and co-workers at Cal Tech). Building on earlier work of Richard Mirriam and Esper Larsen, he also recognized contrasting patterns of pluton zonation within the Peninsular Ranges batholith, including ring dikes and cone sheet structures in the western province.
The Gordon Gastil Scholarship was established in 1995 following Gordon’s retirement as Professor of Geological Sciences at San Diego State University. Gordon was born and raised in San Diego and enrolled at San Diego State Teachers College where he came under the influence of Baylor Brooks. At the time, no geology degree was offered at SDSU so Baylor directed Gordon to the UC Berkeley where he completed his BSc and PhD in geology. Following work for Shell Oil Company, service in the U.S. Army, and mining exploration in Canada, Gordon joined San Diego State as a full-time faculty member in 1959. Together with students and colleagues Gordon went on to map thousands of square kilometers in Arizona, California, and Mexico, including the entire state of Baja California Norte! Gordon was able to accomplish his own teaching, research and mapping interests, while at the same time providing students with abundant opportunities for hands-on-learning by encouraging participation in field, laboratory, and library research activities; many of these joint efforts and projects lead to co-authored publications — a real coup for aspiring young geologists. Gordon was awarded the prestigious Dibblee Medal on August 21, 2002 in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments in field geology and geologic mapping. Although well known for his south-of-the-border mapping efforts in Baja California, Gordon’s broad range of interests and remarkable ability to break new ground across scientific disciplines is truly the hallmark of his rich scientific research career. He freely shared his enthusiasm and ideas with students, colleagues, and anyone else interested in the Earth and ultimately supervised 58 MSc theses at SDSU along with many dozens of undergraduate research projects. The Gastil Scholarship is awarded to students displaying distinction in field geology.
R. Gordon Gastil
Ph.D., Geology, 1954, UC Berkeley
Geotectonics, geochronology, and petrology of southern and Baja California
- Gastil, R.G., 1954, Late Precambrian volcanism in southeastern Arizona: Am. Jour. Sci., v.252, no.7, pp.436-440.
- Gastil, R.G., 1954a, An occurrence of authigenic xenotime: Jour. Sed. Petrology, v.24, no.4, pp.280-281.
- Gastil, R.G., 1958, Older Precambrian rocks of the Diamond Butte Quadrangle, Gila County, Arizona: Geol. Soc. America Bull., v.69, no.12, pp.1495-1514.
- Knowles, M.K., R.G., Gastil, 1958, Metamorphosed Iron Formation in Southwestern Labrador: Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Bulletin, v.LXII, p.265-272.
- Gastil, R.G., 1960, Distribution of mineral dates in time and space: Am. Jour. Sci., v.258, pp.1-35.
- Gastil, R.G., 1960a, Continents and mobile belts in the light of mineral dating: XXI International Geological Congress, part IX, pp.162-169.
- Gastil, R.G., D.M. Knowles, 1960, Geology of the Wabash Lake area, southwestern Labrador, and eastern Quebec, Canada: Geol. Soc.America Bull., v.71, pp.1243-1254.
- Gastil, R.G., Roger Blais, D.M. Knowles, Robert Bergeson 1960, The Labrador Geosyncline: XXI International Geological Congress, Copenhagen, Part IX, pp.21-38.
- Gastil, R.G., 1962, A working hypothesis for Arizonas older Precambrian history: New Mexico Geological Soc. Bull., v.74, p.803-806.
- Bushee, Jonathan, John Holden, Barbara Geyer, and Gordon Gastil, 1963, Lead-alpha dates for some basement rocks of southern California, Geol Soc. America Bull., v.74, p.803-806.
- Delisle, Mark, J.R. Morgan, Jay Heldenbrand, and Gordon Gastil, 1965, Lead- alpha dates for some basement rocks of southern California, Geol. Soc. America Bull., v.76, pp.1069-1074.
- Gastil, R.G., G.R. Morgan, and M. Delisle, 1967, Some effects of metamorphism on zircons, Geol Soc. America Bull., v.78, pp.879-906.
- Gastil, R.G., 1968, Fault systems in northern Baja California and their relation to the origin of the Gulf of California in proceedings of Conference of Geologic Problems of San Andreas Fault System, Stanford U. Publ., Geol Sciences, v.XI, pp.283-286.
- Gastil, R.G., 1968, How good is the evidence for 450 miles of offset on the San Andreas Fault in Proceedings of Conference on Geologic Problems of San Andreas Fault System, Stanford U. Publ., Geol. Sciences, v.XI, pp.208-211.
- Gastil, R.G., 1969, Geologic evidence relating to the origin of the northern half of the Gulf of California, in Pan-American Symposium on the upper mantle, 1968: Mexico Univ. Nac. Autonoma Inst. Geofisica, v. 2, group 2, p.1-5.
- Gastil, R.G., R.P Phillips, and R. Rodriguez-Torres, 1972, The Reconstruction of Mesozoic California, 24th International Geological Congress, Montreal, Section 3, p.217-229.Gastil, R.G., and W. Jensky, 1973, Possible right-lateral strike slip beneath the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the State of Nayarit, Mexico, Transactions of the Second San Andreas Fault Conference, Stanford Univ. Publ., Geological Sciences, v. XIII, p.171-180.
- Gastil, R.G., R.P. Phillips, and E.C. Allison, 1973, Reconnaissance Geologic Map of the State of Baja California: Geological Society of America; accompanies Reconnaissance Geology of the State of Baja California by the same authors, 1975: Geol Soc. America Memoir 140, 170 p.
- Gastil, R.G., D.V. Lemone, and W.J. Steward, 1973, Permian fusulinids from near San Felipe, Baja California: American Assoc. Pet. Geol. Bull., v.57, p.746-747; also published in Spanish; Bol. Soc. Geol. Mexicana, Tomo XXXVII, p.84-90.
- Gastil, R.G., D. Krummehacher, J. Doupont, and J. Bushee, 1974, The West Mexican Batholith Belt: Pacific Geology, v.8, p.73-78.
- Gastil, R.G., and J. Lillegraven, co-editors, 1974, The Geology of Peninsular California: AAPG-SEPM-SEG Field Trip Guidebook, 138 p.
- Krummenacher, D., R.G. Gastil, J. Bushee, and J. Doupont, 1975, K-Ar Apparent Ages, Peninsular Ranges Batholith, Southern California and Baja California: Geol. Soc. America Bull., v.86, p.760-768.
- Gastil, R.G., 1975, Plutonic Zones in the Peninsular Ranges of Southern California and Northern Baja California: Geology, June, p.361-363.
- Minch, J.C., R.G. Gastil, J. Robinson, W. Fink, and H.H. James, 1976, Geology of the Vizcaino Peninsular in Aspects of the Geologic History of the Continental Borderland, D.G. Howell (ed.): Pacific Section AAPG Misc. Publ. 24, p.136-195.
- Gastil, R.G. and D. Krummenacher, 1975, Reconnaissance Map of Coastal Sonora between Puerto Lobos and Bahia Kino: Geol. soc. America Map and Chart Series MC-16.
- Gastil, R.G., D. Krummenacher, J. Doupont, J. Bushee, W. Jensky, and D. Barthelmy, 1976, La Zona Batholitica del sur de California y el Occidente de Mexico: Bol. Soc. Geol. Mexicana XXXVII, p.84-90.
- Gastil, R.G., D. Krummenacher, 1977, Reconnaissance geology of coastal Sonora between Puerto Lobos and Bahia Kino: Geol. Soc. America Bull., v.88, p.189-198.
- Gastil, R.G., 1977, Subduction, accretion, and batholith emplacement: in plutonism in relation to volcanism and metamorphism, International Geological Correlations Program Circum-Pacific Plutonism Project, Toyama, Japan, p.62-73.
- Gastil, Gordon, and Richard Higley, 1977, Guide to San Diego Area Stratigraphy: The Edwin C. Allison Center, San Diego State University, 62 p.
- Kuper, H.T., and Gordon Gastil, 1977, Reconnaissance of Marine Sedimentary Rocks of Southwestern San Diego County: in Geology of Southwestern San Diego County, California and Northwestern Baja California (G.T. Ferrand, ed.), San Diego Association of Geologists, p.9-16.
- Gastil, G., Morgan, G.J., and Krummenacher, D., 1978, Mesozoic history of peninsular California and related areas east of the Gulf of California: in Mesozoic Palegeography of the Western United States, edited by Howell, D.G. and McDougall, K.A.: Pacific Section Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, California, U.S.A., p.107-116.
- Gastil, R.G., and D. Krummenacher, 1978, A Reconnaissance Geologic Map of West-Central Part of the State of Nayarit, Mexico: Geol. Soc. America Map and Chart Series MC-24.
- Gastil, Gordon, Daniel Krummenacher, and W.A. Jensky II, 1979, Reconnaissance Geology of West-Central Nayarit, Mexico: Summary: Geological Society of America Bulletin, Part I, v.90, p.15-18.
- Gastil, R.G., 1979, Recent Exploration in the Cedros-Vizcaino area and a field Trip Log; Current problems in the geology of the Cedros-Vizcaino Region, in Baja California Geology (ed. by P.L. Abbott and R.G. Gastil), published by Dept. of Geological Sciences, San Diego State Univ., San Diego, CA 92182, p.1-10, 149-158.
- Gastil, Gordon, 1979, A Conceptual Hypothesis for the Relation of Differing Tectonic Terranes to Plutonic Emplacement: Geology, v.7, n.11, p.543- 544.
- Gastil, G., Krummenacher, D., and Minch, J., 1979: The record of Cenozoic volcanism around the Gulf of California: Geological Society of America Bulletin, Part I, v.90, p.839-857.
- Gastil, R.G., 1979a, Recent Exploration in the Cedros-Vizcaino Area, and a Field Trip Log, in Geol. of Baja California (ed. by Abbott, P.L. and Gastil, R.G.) Geol. Soc. America Annual Meeting, San Diego Field Guides and Paper, p.1-10.
- Gastil, R.G., 1979b, Current Problems in the Geology of the Cedros-Vizcaino Region, in Geol. of Baja California (ed. by Abbott, P.L. and Gastil, R.G.) Geol. Soc. America Annual Meeting, San Diego, Field Guides and Papers, p.149-156.
- Abbott, P.L. and Gastil, R.G. (eds.), 1979, Baja California Geology: Field Trip Guide for Trips 10, 12, 13 and 26, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, San Diego, November, 1979: published by Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State Univ., San Diego, CA 92182, 227 p.
- Gastil, R.G., G.J. Morgan, and D. Krummenacher, 1980, Tectonic History of Peninsular California and Adjacent Mexico in Rubey Volume No.1, The Tectonic Development of California, edited by Gary Ernst, Freeman Press, San Francisco, p.284-306.
- Gastil, R.G., 1981, Volcanic correlations across the Gulf of California: National Geographic Society Research Reports, v.13, p.231-234.
- Gastil, R.G., and Miller, R.H., 1981, Lower Paleozoic Strata on the Pacific Plate of North America: Nature, v.292, no.5826, p.828-830.
- Gastil, R.G., and Ortlieb, L., 1981, Geology of Coastal sonora between Puerto Lobos and Bahia Kino, Field Guide for Field Trip, No. 2, Geol. Soc. America Cordilleran Section Meeting, Hermosillo, p.59-72.
- Gastil, Gordon and Phillips, Richard (co-editors) 1982 Symposium on Subduction of oceonic plates: Geological society of America Bulletin, v.93, p463-513.
- Gastil, Gordon, 1983, Mesozoic and Cenozoic granitic rocks of southern California and Western Mexico, in Circum-Pacific Plutonic Terranes, J. Roddick, ed., Geological society of America Memoire 159, p.265-276.
- Gastil, R.G., Davis, T., and Criscione, J., 1983, Strontium and Lead Ratios, of Prebatholithic Rocks of Peninsular California, Final Report to National Geographic Society, Open File, 29 p.
- Gastil, R.G., and Miller, R.H., 1983, Prebatholithic Terrances of Peninsular California north of the 28th parallel, U.S.A. and Mexico-August 1983 status: in Proceedings of the Circum Pacific Terance Conference (D.G. Howell, ed.), Stanford U. Publications in Geological Sciences 18, p.93-97.
- Gastil, R.G., Phillips, R.P., and Minch, J., 1984, the Geology of the Islands, in Biogeography in the Sea of Cotez, (ed.) T.T. Case, and M.C. Cady: Regents of the University of California, p.13-26.
- Gastil, G. and Miller, R.H., 1984, Prebatholithic paleogeography of Peninsular California and adjacent Mexico in Geology of the Baja California Peninsular, V.A. Frizzell, Jr., (ed.)(Pacific Section, Society of Economic Mineralogists and Petrologists, v.39.
- Gastil, G., 1985, Terranes of Peninsular California and adjacent Sonora, in Tectonostratigraphic Terranes of the Circum-Pacific Region, D.G. Howell, (ed.), Circum Pacific Council for Engergy and Mineral Resources, Earth Science Series, n.1, p.273-283.
- Gastil, Gordon, Richard Miller, Gary Girty, Michael Walawander, Melissa Warlaw, James Crocker, Michael Campbell, John Hoobs, James Reed, Judith Diamon and Charles Knaack, 1985, The Basement Terrances of Peninsular California and Adjacent Mexico in Third Circum Pacific Terrane Conference California and Adjacent Mexico in Third Circum Pacific Terrance Conference-Extended Abstracts (Evan Leitch, (ed.), University of Sydney, p.75-78.
- Gastil, Gordon, and Kathe Bertine, 1985, Thermal springs and thermal spring related waters and chemical deposits, southern and Baja California: California Division of Oil and Gas, 135 p., 17 plates. (This is available in Open File from the California State Division of Oil and Gas, Sacramento, California).
- Gastil, Gordon and Bertine, Kathe, 1986, The relationship between the distribution of shallow thermal water and seismicity in southern California, Geology, p.287-290.
- Gastil, R.G. and Bertine, Kathe, 1986, Reply to Comments on the above article by the same authors: Geology, p.287-290.
- Gastil, R.G., Miller, R.H., and Campa, U.M., 1986, The Cretaceous paleogeography of Peninsular California and adjacent Mexico, in Symposium on the Cretaceous Paleogeography of western North America, P. Abbott, editor: Pacific Section, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, v.46, p.41-50.
- Walawender, M.J., Gastil, R.G., J.P. Clinkenbeard, W.V. McCormick, B.G.Eatmon, R.S. Wernicke, M.S. Wardlaw, S.W. Gunn, and B.M. Smith, 1990: Origin and evolution of the zoned La Posta-type plutons, eastern Peninsular Ranges batholith, southern and Baja California in the Nature and Origin of Cordilleran Mogivatism, Anderson, L.T. (ed.), p.19-31.
- Gastil, G., Diamond, J., Knaack, C., M. Walawender, M. Marshall, C. Boyles, southern and Baja California in the Nature and Origin of Cordilleran Mogivatism, Anderson, L.T. (ed.): Geological Society of America Memoir 174, Anderson, (ed.), p.19-31 Gastil, R.G., 1190, Zoned plutons of the Peninsular Ranges in southern and Baja California in, Shinizo, M., and Gastil, R.G. (eds.), Advances in Concepts Concerning Zoned Plutons in Japan and Southern and Baja California, Univ. of Tokyo Press, p. 77-90. Cady: Regents of the Univ. of California, p.13-26.
- Gastil, G., 1990, Zoned plutons of the Peninsular Ranges in southern and Baja California, in Recent Advances in concepts concerning zoned plutons in Japan and southern and Baja California, G.Gastil and M. Shimizu (eds.), The University Museum, the University of Tokyo, Nature and Culture, n.2, p.77-90.
- Gastil, R.G., 1990 The boundary between the magnetite-series and ilmenite series rocks in Peninsular California in Recent Advance in concepts concerning zoned plutons in Japan and southern and Baja California, M. Shimizu and G. Gastil, R.G. (eds.), The University Museum, University of Tokyo, Nature and Culture, N.2, p.91-100.
- M. Shimizu and G. Gastil (editors), 1990, Recent advances in concepts concerning zoned plutons in Japan and southern and Baja California: University Museum, University of Tokyo, Nature and Culture, n. 2, 243 p. Contributions by the editors include Preface p.1-2, and Summary p.243-244.