William R. Dickinson

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Dickinson's QFL triangle
Photo of Bill Dickinson, 2004

William Richard Dickinson (October 26, 1931 – July 21, 2015) was a professor emeritus of geoscience at the University of Arizona and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.[1] Prior joining the University of Arizona, Dickinson was a professor at Stanford University.[2] He joined the U of A faculty in 1979.[3]

Early life

Dickinson was born near Nashville, Tennessee in 1931,[4] and grew up in Travellers Rest, a historic plantation house built by his great-great-grandfather Judge John Overton in 1799.[5] Dickinson's family operated an Arabian horse farm on the property until 1946, when they relocated the family and horse farm to Santa Barbara, California. Dickinson's experience as a young adult riding on horseback through the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains, and observing the geography, inspired his interest in geology. Dickinson enrolled at Stanford University in 1948, and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in petroleum engineering in 1952 and a Ph.D in geology in 1958.[6]


Dickinson was renowned for his work in plate tectonics, sedimentary geology and Pacific Oceana geology and was considered one of the foremost experts on the geology of the Colorado Plateau. Dickinson was one of the founders of the Gazzi-Dickinson Method and its primary application, QFL diagrams and their use in sandstone provenance.

Dickinson's research includes studying the potsherds (historic or prehistoric fragments of pottery) of Pacific Oceana. Over the years, he visited hundreds of Pacific Islands collecting and dating sherds.

In later life, Dickinson resided in Tucson, Arizona, where he continued to do research and teach at the University of Arizona. He died on July 21, 2015 while on a field expedition to Nuku'alofa, Tonga.[7]



  1. ^ NY Times article on new National Academy members
  2. ^ report by Dickinson when he was at Stanford
  3. ^ Tribute to Dickinson
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Biographical memoir of William R. Dickinson from the National Academy of Sciences.
  6. ^ Biographical memoir of William R. Dickinson from the National Academy of Sciences.
  7. ^ Jensen, Mari N. (July 27, 2015). "William R. Dickinson, Major Figure in Plate Tectonics and Pacific Archaeology, Dies". University of Arizona. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 

External links

  • William Dickinson's page at the National Academy of Sciences
  • William Dickinson at the U of A
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