(1931- ) AmericanInvertebrate Paleontologist
Just as John McPhee described in his popular books on geology, there is a sharp contrast between East Coast geology and West Coast geology. Many of the notable Earth scientists of the East Coast are “grand old geologists of the Appalachians.” Even though they are basically doing the same sort of research with the same cutting edge, West Coast geologists are regarded as young mavericks. This impression may reflect the age of the rocks (the East Coast is much older) or the age of the schools or perhaps an historical migration of many of the new doctorates from the East Coast to the West Coast in the 1950s and 1960s or some combination thereof. William Berry has managed to be from both coasts. Early in his career, Berry established himself as one of the true leaders in Appalachian paleontology among a very talented group and he has never really abandoned that position through all of his other work. He is a specialist in graptolites and especially Ordovician graptolites, mainly from the Taconic Mountains of New York, although his earliest reports were from Texas. Graptolites are small enigmatic sawlike fossils that are mainly found in deepwater shales. His work expanded into Silurian graptolites from the Maine slate belt and nearby Canada and later to Devonian graptolites, among the others, and his area of interest spread to the entire United States and even western Ireland.
Berry’s interest in graptolites has never really faded but he became more interested in biostratig-raphy, especially with regard to regional correlations. With his colleague Arthur Boucot, Berry began a mammoth project of correlation of Silurian rocks worldwide including North America, South America, Southeast Asia and the Near East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and China. All the while, he kept expanding his grap-tolite studies to northern Canada and Greenland but periodically he returned to his roots in the Appalachians. Eventually his research further evolved into paleoenvironmental and paleoclimate analysis of these ancient settings. Berry studied the evolution of the platforms and basins and considered the stimuli that caused animals to evolve. He considered several mechanisms of change including ocean venting, destabilization of ocean density gradients, and even meteorite impacts. Most of this research was conducted on black shales where the graptolite fossils are found. These studies drew Berry into the modern group of environmental geologist and climate change modelers. His administrative work and service to the profession also moved in this direction concurrently with his research.
William Berry was born on September 1, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University and earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1953 in geology and a master of arts in geology in 1955. He completed his graduate studies at Yale University, Connecticut, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1957. Upon graduation, he accepted a position at the University of Houston, Texas, but moved to the University of California at Berkeley the next year (1958) and remains there today. While a faculty member, Berry has also held numerous positions with the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley including the curator of Paleozoic and Mesozoic invertebrate fossils (1960-present), associate director (1962-1966), acting director (1966, 1972-1976), and director (1976-1987). He served as chair of the Department of Paleontology (1975-1987) and the director of the environmental sciences program (1979-1993). He has also been a marine scientist in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 1989. William Berry has been married to Suzanne Spaulding since 1961; they have one child.
William Berry has led a very productive career. He is an author on some 165 articles and reports in international journals, professional books and volumes, governmental reports, and conference proceedings. Many of these papers are benchmark studies on graptolites, paleo-oceanog-raphy, and biostratigraphy that appear in journals such as Nature and Science. He is an author or editor of 12 books and volumes. Two of these books, Principles of Stratigraphic Analysis and Growth of a Prehistoric Time Scale Based on Organismal Evolution, are a widely adopted textbook and a more popular scientific book that have been reprinted several times. Berry was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1967.
Berry has performed significant service to the profession and the public. He has served in numerous roles for the International Strati-graphic Commission, the National Research Council, the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also the director of the Environmental Sciences Curriculum Development Program for the San Francisco, California, Unified School District. He was similarly an adviser for the Catalan (Spain) Ministry for the Environment to develop an environmental health and safety program. Berry served in numerous editorial capacities including as associate editor of Paleoceanography (1986-1992) and a member of the board of editors for the University of California Publications in the geological sciences.