Home > The Society > SVP & Paleo News > Obituaries > Paul S. Martin, SVP Honorary Member dies after long illness


Paul S. Martin, SVP Honorary Member dies after long illness


We just learned of the death of University of Arizona emeritus Professor Paul Martin (and SVP Honorary Member) on Monday, September 13, following some lengthy health issues.

UA Geosciences Dept. Chair Karl Flessa sent out this brief announcement:

Paul Martin joined the Geochronology Laboratory of the University of Arizona in 1957 and was Professor of Geosciences from 1968 until his formal retirement in 1989. Paul is best known worldwide for his studies of Pleistocene extinctions and for his and his students’ work on the ecological and climatic record of packrat middens. Paul’s long reign on Tumamoc Hill created a community of scholars, students and just plain folks who wanted to know about how humans interacted with the rest of nature in the past so that they could build a better future for both.

Paul Martin was a generous, brilliant and extraordinarily influential scientist, teacher and mentor. More than forty years ago, he framed a scientific question: What was the role of humans in Pleistocene extinctions? It’s the greatest "whodunit" in science. The data convinced Paul – and many others – that human activity played a major role. Others disagreed, and the issue has engaged generations of scientists, students and the general public ever since. Paul warmly welcomed both supporters and dissenters. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It wasn’t just a matter of disarming his opponents with kindness. Paul really wanted to see things the way they saw them, to understand even more about his “favorite topic” – Pleistocene extinctions.

Paul's work bridged ecology, anthropology and paleontology is a way that had never been done before. He added deep time to ecological thinking, put prehistoric humans alongside now-extinct animals, and gave paleontology an environmental relevance it hadn't previously had. Paul was always a good friend and will always be my favorite paleontologist.

Text courtesy of the blog of the State Geologist of Arizona.

Photo courtesy of the Paul Martin family.


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