Doris Malkin Curtis

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Doris Malkin Curtis (January 12, 1914 – May 26, 1991) was an American paleontologist, stratigrapher, and geologist. She became the first woman president of the Geological Society of America (1991) and made meaningful contributions towards Scripps Institution of Oceanography.[1]


Doris Malkin Curtis was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1914 to her mother, Mary Berkowitz, and her father, Meyer Malkin. In her early years, Curtis had a significant involvement with Girl Scouts. She began as a member, then became increasingly involved as a counselor. She attended Erasmus Hall High School. During her post-secondary academic years, she attended Brooklyn College, where she received her bachelor's degree in Geology in 1933, and went on to earn her master's degree in 1934 and PhD in 1949 at Columbia University. In 1941, Doris worked as a paleontologist for Shell Oil Company until a year later when she was transferred to several different locations to work as a stratigrapher and geologist (1942-1950). With the help of her mother, she also completed her field work required to complete her PhD during this time.

Two years after working with the Shell Oil Company, she became an associate research geologist for Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she made contributions to the study of biofacies.[1] Doris began teaching at universities in intervals as an instructor for sedimentary geology[1] starting with the University of Houston in the Faculty of Earth Sciences (1949-1951). She then moved on to teach at the University of Oklahoma (1954-1959) where she became a popular professor and instructor, then finally, at Rice University (1979-1991).[2] In 1960, she began working in the petroleum field once more and was assigned to Shells Baton Rouge Exploration Office. When Doris retired in 1979, she created a geological consulting firm with her good friend, Dorothy Jung Echols by the name of 'Curtis and Echols.'[2][3] where she used her skills to map deposition in various locations to determine where hydrocarbons could be found within the earth.[4] Doris was a very respected geologist, she held many sessions of various geology topics.

Thanks to Doris' contribution to the geological field, new concepts for interpreting the geology of basins all around the world were created and the study of time-synchronous deltas was initiated in Louisiana.[3]

On May 26, 1991, Doris Malkin Curtis died as a result of leukemia. In August later that year, her life was celebrated by the staff of the Geological Society of America as her ashes were placed beneath the branches of a spruce tree, which represented the ever-growing impact she made on those she came across.[1] The GSA awards an annual Doris M. Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science Award in her memory.[5]


  • Doris published over 30 papers that were featured in professional journals on topics such as biostratigraphy and the source of hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Mexico during the Cenozoic period.
  • She was a member of multiple geologic organizations such including being an honorary member and president of the Gulf section of SEPM, the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the Houston Geological Society, Sigma XI and the 28th International Geological Congress.
  • The first woman to become president of the Geological Society of America (GSA).
  • With her background in geology and industry, she became a member of the Environmental Quality Committee and worked towards conservation of the environments that industries are founded on and led her to be appointed in 1967 as one of four delegates from the United States to the USSR in an exchange visit to tour petroleum provinces in the Baku area of the Caspian Sea.
  • The accomplishment she was most proud of was her opportunity participate in the shipboard sedimentologist on two legs of the Deep Sea Drilling Project on the Glomar Challenger in Yokohama to Okinawa Japan from 1978-1979 and again in 1983.
  • Doris was listed in the book American Men and Women of Science and Marquis Who's Who due to her contributions to geology.
  • Received Matrix award in Houston for Women in Community Service.
  • Member and chairman of the U.S National Committee of Geology.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Echols, Dorothy Jung. "Memorial to Doris M. Curtis 1914-1991" (PDF). Memorials of the Geological Society of America. 23: 175–183.
  2. ^ a b Mauldin Cottrell, Debbie. "Curtis, Doris S. Malkin". Handbook of Texas Online.
  3. ^ a b "Doris Malkin Curtis Medal". Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  4. ^ "Doris M. Curtis". Association for Women Geoscientists. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Elizabeth Cochran to receive GSA 2006 Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2018-11-27.