Robert Berner

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Robert Berner
Berner Robert 02.jpg
Robert Arbuckle Berner

November 25, 1935
DiedJanuary 10, 2015(2015-01-10) (aged 79)
New Haven, Connecticut
Alma mater
Known for
  • BLAG model
  • GEOCARB model
Scientific career
Notable studentsDonald Canfield

Robert Arbuckle Berner (November 25, 1935 – January 10, 2015) was an American scientist known for his contributions to the modeling of the carbon cycle.[2] He taught Geology and Geophysics from 1965 to 2007 at Yale University, where he latterly served as Professor Emeritus until his death. His work on sedimentary rocks led to the co-founding of the BLAG model[3] of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which takes into account both geochemical and biological contributions to the carbon cycle.[4]

Early life[edit]

Berner was born on November 25, 1935 in Erie, Pennsylvania to Paul Nau Berner and Priscilla (Arbuckle) Berner. He was encouraged to develop an interest in geology by his older brother (and now deceased geologist) Paul. Bob initially attended Purdue University but soon transferred to the University of Michigan, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1958 and his master's degree in 1959. Next he attended Harvard University where in 1962 he earned his Ph.D. in Geology.[5]

Academic career and research[edit]

In 1962, Berner won a fellowship to do research at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California. From 1963 until 1965, he worked as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. Beginning in 1965, he taught at Yale University where he became the Alan M. Bateman Professor in 1987, a position he held until his retirement in 2007.[5]

Berner's early research focused on the application of chemical thermodynamics and kinetics on sediments and sedimentary rocks. Results from these experiments led to his 1971 book Principles of Chemical Sedimentology. In 1980, Berner authored Early Diagenesis: A Theoretical Approach which was quoted so often that the Institute for Scientific Information declared it a Science Citation Classic.[5] Noting the role that sedimentary rocks at or near the Earth's surface play in the carbon cycle, Berner, along with Tony Lasaga, and Bob Garrels put forth the BLAG model of the carbon cycle in 1983 (BLAG from the letters of their last names). BLAG attempts to model variations of atmospheric carbon dioxide back through geologic time to the Cretaceous using both Geochemical and Biological carbon cycles. Berner subsequently extended this idea with the GEOCARB model,[6] which attempts to model such variations back to the Phanerozoic. Berner's later research focused on computer modeling of carbon and sulfur cycles, as well as the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen on the paleoclimate.[7][8][9]

Personal life[edit]

In 1959, Berner married fellow Geology graduate student Elizabeth Marshall Kay. They have three children, and coauthored a book together in 1995, Global Environment: Water, Air, and Geochemical Cycles.[7] Berner's father-in-law, Professor Marshall Kay was a well-known academic geologist as well.

Berner died on January 10, 2015, following a long illness.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Berner publications indexed by Google Scholar
  2. ^ "About Robert Arbuckle Berner". The People of Geology & Geophysics. Yale University. Archived from the original on November 17, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  3. ^ Kasting, J. F. (1984). "Comments on the BLAG model: The carbonate-silicate geochemical cycle and its effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 100 million years". American Journal of Science. 284 (10): 1175–82. Bibcode:1984AmJS..284.1175K. doi:10.2475/ajs.284.10.1175. PMID 11541983.
  4. ^ Canfield, Donald (2015). "Robert A. Berner (1935–2015) Geochemist who quantified the carbon cycle". Nature. 518 (7540): 484. doi:10.1038/518484a. PMID 25719659.
  5. ^ a b c "Berner, Robert A. (1935- )". eNotes: Topics: Science., Inc. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Berner, R. A.; Kothavala, Z. (2001). "GEOCARB III: A revised model of atmospheric CO2 over Phanerozoic time". American Journal of Science. 301 (2): 182. Bibcode:2001AmJS..301..182B. CiteSeerX doi:10.2475/ajs.301.2.182.
  7. ^ a b c "2013 IAGC Award Winners". IAGC. International Association of GeoChemistry. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  8. ^ Royer, D. L.; Wing, S. L.; Beerling, D. J.; Jolley, D. W.; Koch, P. L.; Hickey, L. J.; Berner, R. A. (2001). "Paleobotanical Evidence for Near Present-Day Levels of Atmospheric CO2 During Part of the Tertiary". Science. 292 (5525): 2310–3. Bibcode:2001Sci...292.2310R. doi:10.1126/science.292.5525.2310. PMID 11423657.
  9. ^ Pagani, M; Caldeira, K; Berner, R; Beerling, D. J. (2009). "The role of terrestrial plants in limiting atmospheric CO2 decline over the past 24 million years". Nature. 460 (7251): 85–8. Bibcode:2009Natur.460...85P. doi:10.1038/nature08133. PMID 19571882. S2CID 4419599.
  10. ^ "In memoriam: Robert Berner, a 'giant of geology'". Yale News. Yale University. January 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Robert Berner CV". The People of Geology & Geophysics. Yale University. Archived from the original on 2014-03-15. Retrieved Sep 9, 2013.
  12. ^ "Past Fellows". Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  13. ^ "Msa award". Mineralogical Society of America. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  14. ^ "All Fellows". John Simon Gugggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships to Assist Research and Artistic Creation. John Simon Gugggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on May 4, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  15. ^ "Past Recipients". A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science. Royal Society of Canada. Archived from the original on July 4, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  16. ^ "V.M. Goldschmidt Award". Geochemical Society Awards. The Geochemical Society. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  17. ^ "Murchison Medal". Award Winners Since 1831. The Geological Society of London. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  18. ^ "Past Award & Medal Recipients". Medal and Award Recipients. The Geological Society of America. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  19. ^ "Laureates". The Franklin Institute Awards. The Franklin Institute. Retrieved May 6, 2013.