Professor emeritus van Andel dies in Cambridge

Nov. 10, 2010, 2:00 a.m.

Stanford professor emeritus Tjeerd Hendrik van Andel died at age 87 on Sept. 17. Van Andel began at Stanford with a professorship in oceanography in 1976 and also served as professor of geophysics and human biology until his retirement from Stanford in 1987.

According to an obituary in the Stanford Report, van Andel, born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, held a lifelong interest in exploring the past. Before coming to Stanford, he worked as a sedimentologist in Amsterdam and a marine geologist and geochemist at Oregon State University. While at Oregon State, he helped with international deep-sea explorations that used the geology of the previously unexplored ocean floor to develop theories of plate tectonics and periods of climate change in Earth’s history, according to the Stanford Report.

Professor emeritus van Andel dies in Cambridge
Tjeerd van Andel, Professor of Geology (Courtesy of Stanford University News Service)

His ocean investigation continued during his Stanford professorship when, in 1977, he was part of an expedition off the coast of Ecuador that made the first observations of ocean floor hydrothermal vents. In addition to his work in geology, he also worked in geo-archaeology at Stanford, leading Stanford’s 1978 Archaeological and Environmental Survey to Greece, according to an obituary from Cambridge University.

Outside his contributions to geology, van Andel was known for his careful, scientific mind and sense of humor.

“He really had an ability to dissect a conversation and look at all sides of issues,” said professor of geological and environmental sciences Gordon Brown in an interview with the Stanford Report.

Van Andel’s wife, Kate Pretty, principal of Homerton College in Cambridge, England, said in van Andel’s eulogy that he displayed a “blunt, tough and enormously energetic” attitude toward science, but “would laugh until he cried at Monty Python.” Outside the classroom, van Andel was also an artist, gourmet cook and writer.

This balance between light humor and passion for his sciences attracted many students to his courses at Stanford, according to the Report, often prompting non-geology majors to explore the subject in order to take van Andel’s classes.

Van Andel’s retirement from Stanford brought him to the University of Cambridge to continue his work in geology. More of van Andel’s major achievements in his career include authoring “New Views on an Old Planet,” a history of Earth’s geology, winning the 1978 Francis P. Shepard Medal in Marine Geology and earning fellowships with the American Geophysical Union in 1980 and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1981, according to the Report.

Van Andel’s funeral took place in Cambridge on Sept. 30.

–Matt Bettonville

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