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Edward George Purdy 1931-2009

Dr Edward (Ed) Purdy, internationally renowned carbonate and petroleum geologist, died On October 13 after a very short illness, in Weybridge, Surrey. Purdy’s distinguished career, which began in academia and continued in the oil industry, spanned almost 50 years.

Ed was born on 4 December 1931 in New Rochelle, New York. After finishing high school at Rahway, New Jersey in 1950 and following two years' service in the US Marine Corps, Ed studied agriculture at Rutgers University - graduating in 1956. He then became a graduate student in geology at Columbia University, New York, where professors Norman Newell and John Imbrie took him under their wing and where he began his study of carbonate sediments on Great Bahama Bank. Through this work the area became a natural laboratory for carbonate geologists. He published his first scientific paper (with Louis Kornicker) in 1957 on the origin of peloids, the non-skeletal sedimentary grains that make up many carbonate rocks. In 1960 Ed got his PhD and his thesis (Recent Calcium Carbonate Facies of the Great Bahama Bank), published in volume 71 of the Journal of Geology (1963), has since become a classic.

By 1959, Ed had accepted a post as assistant professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Ed began work on Belize (formerly British Honduras), location of the largest reef area in the Atlantic Ocean. In subsequent years, Ed and several students worked on many aspects of the Quaternary mixed carbonate-siliciclastic system. Research topics included modern sediment distribution, antecedent control on facies distribution, carbonate mud formation, clay minerals, foraminifera, molluscs, paleoecology, river coastal and intertidal systems, Pleistocene facies, and sedimentary geochemistry. Seven PhD theses and many publications resulted from this project. A key theme of his work was the antecedent platform model, which explained carbonate facies distribution pattern by the topography of the underlying karst geomorphology.

A major change to Ed's career came in 1965 when he left Rice University to take up a position with Esso in Houston. He stayed with Esso Exploration & Production for the next 21 years, filling positions in Canada, Singapore, England, Norway and working in North America, Southeast Asia, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and Africa (Niger, Angola, Kenya). From 1986 Ed worked as consultant in international exploration and since 2001 had been active as independent petroleum exploration consultant.

Ed remained in contact with academe, acting as associate editor for scientific journals such as Sedimentology, Geologica Romana, Coral Reefs, and Petroleum Geoscience, worked as adviser in geoscientific funding agencies such as NERC and ODP, and was active in the council of the Geological Society of London (1983-85), and in committees of AAPG. In 1990, he was Esso Distinguished Lecturer and spent time at the University of Sydney, Australia. From 1992-95, he was an appointed visiting professor at Imperial College and visiting professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 1998, Ed received the Special Commendation Award from AAPG. From 2002-2004, he was a guest scientist and invited lecturer at Goethe-University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Ed was a driving force behind seismic and core studies in the Maldives to further the investigation of Neogene platforms and their response to sea-level change. This resulted in a cooperative expedition aboard RV Meteor between the universities of Hamburg, Kiel, and Frankfurt am Main. Sadly, Ed was not able to participate in the expedition. In 2004, he suffered a stroke and was forced to retire more and more from scientific work. In 2007, he donated his entire library to Goethe-University in Frankfurt. Still, he finished his project reviewing and analysing Jack Sepkoski's taxonomic diversity database and relating it to sea-level change and strontium isotope data throughout the Phanerozoic. The results of this work were published 2008 in the International Journal of Earth Sciences. Ed sent me a reprint of this paper, describing it as his last contribution to science.

I am thankful that I knew Ed Purdy, and I know that many colleagues feel the same. The geological profession has lost an honorable and distinguished colleague, who made a lasting impact on sedimentology. He is survived by his wife Christine and his daughters Rosita, Claudia, Kim, and Patty.

Eberhard Gischler
Frankfurt, Germany