Harold Williams (geologist)

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For other people named Harold Williams, see Harold Williams (disambiguation).
Harold Williams
Born 14 March 1934
St. John's, Newfoundland
Died 28 September 2010 (2010-09-29) (aged 76)
St. John's, Newfoundland
Residence Canada (1949–2010)
Dominion of Newfoundland (1934–1949)
Nationality Canadian
Fields Geology
Institutions Geological Survey of Canada
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Alma mater Memorial University of Newfoundland
University of Toronto
Thesis A petrographic study of the Metamorphic rocks of the Chisel lake area, northern Manitoba (1961)
Doctoral advisor J. Tuzo Wilson
Doctoral students Ron Smyth, John Malpas, Leslie Chorlton, Louise Quinn, Brenna Lorenz, Jack Botsford, Kate MacLoughlan, Pablo Valverde, James Hibbard, Doug Reusch
Known for Tectonics of the Appalachian Mountains
Notable awards Governor General's Medal (1956)
Past President's Medal (1976)
Douglas Medal (1980)
Miller Medal (1987)
Logan Medal (1988)

Harold Williams M.Sc Ph.D FRSC (14 March 1934 – 28 September 2010[1]) was one of the premier field geologists in the history of Newfoundland geology and the foremost expert on the Appalachian Mountains of North America. An expert on the evolution and tectonic development of mountain belts, Williams advanced the theory of colliding super-continents in the 1960s and 1970s by helping to transform the notion of continental drift into the theory of plate tectonics.

Williams was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and attended Memorial University of Newfoundland earning a diploma in Engineering and a B.Sc degree (1956) and a M.Sc degree (1958) on a Dominion Command scholarship. He earned a Ph.D from the University of Toronto in 1961. He thereafter joined the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), where he gained the reputation of being an expert field geologist and outstanding scientist. He left the GSC in 1968 and joined the faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he was the first to receive the prestigious title of University Research Professor (1984) and the first to be appointed Alexander Murray Professor (1990). He was the first to win both the Past President’s Medal and the Logan Medal of the Geological Association of Canada.

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada at age 38, a very rare accolade, and 15 years later was awarded the Miller Medal by its Academy of Science. First winner of the R.J.W. Douglas Medal of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, he was also the first geoscientist to be awarded an Isaac Walton Killam Memorial Fellowship and the first scientist of any kind to hold this award for four full years. He has over 250 publications to his credit and for several years in the past three decades has been the most cited Canadian geoscientist in the world.

Williams was among the first to describe the evidence for the existence of the Iapetus Ocean, the predecessor of the modern Atlantic Ocean. A sampling of these rocks is preserved and protected in Gros Morne National Park of western Newfoundland, which has qualified for UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition under his advocacy. Williams is perhaps best known for producing the world's first tectonic lithofacies map and the first geological map of the entire Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. and Canada in 1978.



  1. ^ "Remembering the late, great Hank Williams", Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 6, 2010.

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