Stanford News

2/13/97

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558


Professor Emeritus Benjamin M. Page dies at 85

Memorial services will be held at Stanford Memorial Church at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, for Benjamin M. Page, Professor Emeritus of geology and one of the leading experts on the formation of California's coastal ranges. He died at his home in Palo Alto on Jan. 31 at 85.

A reception will follow at Geology Corner in the Stanford Quad.

Page received all three of his academic degrees from Stanford, all in geology: the bachelor's in 1933, the master's in 1934 and the Ph.D. in 1940. He taught at the University of Southern California while earning his doctorate but joined the faculty at Stanford in 1943. He led the Department of Geology as chair from 1957 to 1969. Though he took emeritus status in 1976, he remained active in research and teaching, publishing some of his best-known scientific papers. From 1985 to 1988 he edited the journal Tectonics.

He was "a master of how the Earth works," according to his colleague, Geophysics Professor Emeritus George Thompson. In the 1960s, after decades of careful mapping and observation in the California coastal ranges, Page was among the first to recognize that the new evidence for plate tectonics helped to explain the geology of the region. He went on to show how the faults and folds of California's geology were formed by the motions of two massive plates or sections of the Earth's crust, and he applied those insights to the geology of continental margins in other parts of the world.

He had a particular interest in the geology of Stanford and the Bay Area. Wolfgang Panofsky, founding director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, credits Page for the geological studies that allowed engineers to place the mile-long particle accelerator on safe foundations. According to geology Professor Emeritus Robert Coleman, "His scientific work helped us understand and cope with the geologic hazards related to earthquakes, landslides and flooding in the Bay Area."

In recent years Page worked on a comprehensive geological map of the faults and formations beneath the Stanford campus, and conducted field trips using local geological features to teach students the principles of geology. At the time of his death he was working with colleagues on studies of faults at Stanford and in San Jose, and on a scientific review of the tectonics of the Central and Southern California coast ranges.

Page is also remembered for his ability to combine scientific rigor with personal graciousness. "Ben was very tall, almost Lincolnesque," Thompson said, "and he always reminded me of Lincoln in his homespun humor and his congeniality. When he stood up to discuss someone's work at a scientific meeting, even if he undercut the findings, he managed not to undercut the person."

At a 1993 division session of the Geological Society of America, Page accepted an award honoring him for a career of contributions by quoting wisdom he said he had gained from a predecessor. The late professor C.F. Tolman, he said, taught him a profound fact: "One day while in a reflective mood, Tolman said to me, 'You know, Ben, people are almost as interesting as rocks.' "

Page was born May 6, 1911 in Pasadena, the grandson of Henry Markham, a congressman and governor of California, and the son of Stanford graduates Benjamin E. and Marie Markham Page, both of the class of 1899. His own son, daughter and grandson also graduated from Stanford.

He met his wife, the former Virginia Ingrim, at Stanford; they graduated in the Class of 1933. A leader in local and international civic affairs, she died in 1995.

He is survived by his son, Benjamin I. Page, of Evanston, Ill.; his daughter, Nancy Page, of New York, and five grandchildren.

The family requests no flowers for the memorial. Donations are welcome to the Benjamin M. Page Endowment Fund in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford, 723-9777.

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By Janet Basu