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Joe McCall 1920-2013

McCallJoeresized.jpgIt may surprise readers of this magazine to learn that Dr Joe McCall, who has died aged 92, ‘retired’ in 1991, after a long career. Since then, most will have associated his name with Geoscientist, on whose Editorial Board he was the longest-serving member, for over 225 issues.

Joe’s enthusiasm for the magazine, which was created from the IG publication British Geologist in 1991, was inspired by his concern that Earth scientists increasingly work in narrow fields, and needed to have other aspects of their science interpreted for them. His own beat however remained incredibly large, embracing the Archaean, Vendian/Ediacaran fossils, hominids in the Rift Valley (where he worked with the Leakeys), carbonatites, caldera volcanoes, mass extinctions, plate tectonics, environmental geology, diamonds and gold, meteoritics, planetology, asteroids, comets and ‘exoplanets’.

During his Geoscientist years, including an early stint as features editor, he commissioned many contributions from friends and colleagues (Sir Patrick Moore included). Joe also wrote a number of review volumes for the Society and others, and edited several Special Publications. In 1997, he co-convened a Fermor meeting on meteoritics, welcoming Gene Shoemaker only months before his untimely death in Australia, on the sort of desert road Joe knew well from his time at the University of Western Australia, Perth. Joe was lead editor on SP 140, which arose from that meeting. It was this conference, and Joe’s continued encouragement, that eventually led me to write my own meteorite book. There must be hundreds of people, like me, for whom Joe’s influence was equally pivotal.

Joe found time to write a book about tektites, Showers of Glass from the Sky, published by the Society in 2001. He also joined the History of Geology Group, and organised a meeting, on the History of Meteoritics, in 2004. On this occasion also, he edited the resulting SP – number 256. Joe was, simply, a stupendous worker. In 2005, this capacity was tested when he was brought onto the editing team of Elsevier’s monumental Encylopedia of Geology and reviewed 100 articles - besides writing 16 entries himself including all those on extraterrestrial aspects of Earth science.

Joe won the Society’s Distinguished Service Award in 2011. He was charming, occasionally cantankerous, but always warm-hearted - and filled with fascination for the Earth and all her ways. It was a privilege to work with him. We are all the poorer for his loss, and the Editorial Board of this magazine shall not, I am sure, see his like again.