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Gerald Manfred Friedman 1921–2011

Outstanding carbonate sedimentologist who escaped Nazi persecution and also worked as an ice-cream quality controller and baker

Gerald Manfred Friedman (23 July 1921–29 November 2011) who was a Fellow for 61 years, (Honorary Fellow from 1996) was born in Berlin of a German Jewish family. In 1938 he escaped to England followed, in 1939, by his immediate family. His wider family were all murdered by the Nazis. At first he worked on farms from 0700 to 1700 and then cycled 30 miles round-trip to Cambridge to study at night class and matriculate. Later he attended the London Bakery School and worked as a baker, taking evening classes in bookkeeping and typing in London.

In 1940 he was interned and then released; he passed the University of London entrance exam, entering Chelsea College in 1942 and graduating in 1945. Here the legendary W H Fleet enthused him in geology and fellow future carbonate sedimentologists Doug Shearman and Robin Bathurst were fellow students. From 1941 he regularly practised judo. He joined the Geologists’ Association in 1944 and was a member for 67 years.

Unable to get work as a geologist, from 1945–46 Gerry worked as a food quality-control chemist with Lyons Restaurants in London. In 1946 the family emigrated to New York, where he worked on penicillin and ice cream quality control before becoming a full-time PhD student in 1949–50 at Columbia University (working on the Cortlandt Complex under S. J Shand). From 1950–54 he taught mineralogy and petrology in the University of Cincinnati, obtaining his Columbia PhD in 1952. In 1954–5 he explored for uranium in the Canadian Shield and then switched radically to sedimentary geology with Standard Oil of Indiana (later Amoco) 1956–64, at Tulsa, Oklahoma. He returned to academia as Professor of Geology in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York (1964–84), and as Professor (1985–88) and then Distinguished Professor (from 1988) at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

Gerry was a brilliant teacher, despite his trademark dark glasses; a world-wide lecturer in petroleum geology courses and consultant, especially on carbonate reservoirs. Loquacious, with unbounded energy and enthusiasm, he won four outstanding paper awards in sedimentology, authored or co-authored over 300 scientific papers and two highly popular books on sedimentology. He gave so generously of his time to scientific and public bodies that this account could be filled solely with his offices (President, AAPG Eastern Sections and SEPM, Editor (1964–70) of the Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, etc.). In 1979 he founded the Northeastern Science Foundation, a not-for-profit body that in 1987 generously endowed the Society’s Sue Tyler Friedman Medal for contributions to the History of Geology (and a similar award for the Geological Society of America).

He mentored over 40 PhD recipients and over 50 Masters, kept up with past students via a newsletter, and received many honours, the most prized being a 1986 honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University, given only once every 50 years to an Earth scientist. He held visiting professorships in Germany and Israel, and often visited the UK.

Gerry married Sue Tyler (anglicised from Theilheimer) in 1948. They had five daughters and by them 18 grandchildren. There is a 2006 autobiography in the Society Library.

Bernard Elgey Leake