Martin Glaessner was born on Christmas Day 1906 in Aussig, an old city on the River Elbe in northwestern Bohemia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Aussig is now Usti nad Lebem in the Czech Republic). His father was Dr Arthur Glaessner (1878-1928), a chemical engineer and industrialist in the fields of ceramics and glass, later in pharmacology, and prominent in Vienna's science-technology community. His mother was Mrs Luise Glaessner whom late in life he brought out to Melbourne. Martin was an only child and, indeed, the only child of a part-Jewish (on his father's side) extended family. Displaying some promise at an early age in a family that took matters cultural and intellectual very seriously, he heightened family expectations of achievement which, as he recalled, were not always easy to carry. Certainly he developed the essentials for the scholarly life very early: a capacity for hard and sustained work, the ability to read very quickly and widely, the habit of rigorous and critical scrutiny. He remained a voracious reader to the very end of his life and in several languages. To his native German with some Czech he would add in due course English, Russian and French, plus some understanding of other European languages. Culturally well-rounded in the Viennese style, he became a good pianist but rarely played when he could no longer maintain his former standards.
His education and professional training took place in the Vienna of the so-called golden autumn – times of an extraordinarily rich and turbulent mix of all the arts and the sciences at the end of the Hapsburg dynasty (he remembered seeing the Emperor Franz Josef on parade). An interest in natural history emerged (he claimed) not from his broad education so much as from being so bored whilst playing the obligatory football that he paid more attention to the interesting-looking fossil shells eroding out of the pitch under his scuffing boots than to his obligations to the team. At any rate he was thoroughly committed to natural history by the time he entered the University of Vienna in 1925. However, his family insisted that his fascination with fossils and natural history had to be supported by something more potentially remunerative, such as the law. This was nothing new – the young Charles Lyell studied law a century before while even earlier, J.S. Bach did not want his sons as musicians to be treated like servants and so C.P.E. studied law. Instead of merely studying law, Glaessner achieved two doctorates within six years of entering university, one in law (1929) and the other in geology and palaeontology (1931). (The Glaessners attended the half-century celebrations of the award in Vienna in 1981.)
Vienna stands at the Danubian watergap between the Alps and the Carpathians – a crucial position geologically and geographically as well as in the history of Europe. The mountain ranges, thrown up against the anvil of the Bohemian Massif to the north, contrast with the downfaulted lowlands such as the Vienna Basin. Fossils have always had a central role in advancing the geology of this region, a role that was critical in stimulating the enthusiasms and shaping the scientific directions of the young Martin Glaessner. As tellers of geological time, fossils were essential for unravelling the structural complexities of the mountain ranges and reconstructing the succession of key events or turning points in the geological history of the region. As recorders of ancient environments and climates, fossils held the clues to the changing configurations of the great central European seaway studied by the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess in the later nineteenth century and now known as Paratethys. In counterpoint to the marine fossil record, terrestrial fossils recorded over land migrations by ancient horses and many other animals between Asia, Europe and Africa. In his education and early research, Glaessner developed a profound respect for holistic palaeontology and geology and for the power of the fossil record to reveal the history of life and organic evolution, the history of the earth's crust, and concentrations of resources such as petroleum and natural gas. He never lost that tripartite balance between the development of his own tools (fossils and strata), the very broad and eclectic approach needed in earth and life history, and the comparable breadth required in economic geology.
Already a Research Associate of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna at the age of 16 (in 1923) and two years before university and the law, Glaessner published three papers on crabs and their geological context in the Vienna Basin before he was twenty. As well as foreshadowing a major strand of his life's work, this interest in crabs had another implication for the breadth of Glaessner's vision. To a considerable extent, palaeontology in the German-speaking lands developed independently of zoology (and even of palaeontology elsewhere). Within palaeontology, there were the great fossil groups such as the trilobites and the foraminifera that disentangled geological complexity and built the geological time scale – these were in the hands of stratigraphically-oriented specialists who tended to avoid arcane palaeobiological theorizing. And then there were fossil groups with living members well known to zoology, such as crabs, turtles and apes, all published on by Glaessner in the Vienna years – less obviously significant as tools of geological time but incorporated into the research programmes of the palaeobiologists. In ignoring that cultural divide, Glaessner became as familiar with the biological traditions of morphology, taxonomy and organic evolution as he did with Alpine tectonics or petroleum exploration. By 1930, at the age of 23, he had published Crustacea Decapoda and another major work on that group with Karl Beurlen (to whom I return below). And a propos of the Germanic isolation alluded to, Glaessner was invited – due no doubt to the respect engendered by his crustacean research – to spend 1930-31 as a Research Associate at the British Museum (Natural History) in London. The respect became mutual: his London experiences gave him a lasting and deep respect for British palaeontology.
By the age of about 26, Glaessner had achieved as well as his doctorates a monograph on crabs and twenty-odd papers on diverse subjects. He had made an impact in the three major divisions of palaeontology, namely invertebrate, vertebrate and micro-palaeontology, as well as in stratigraphy and tectonic geology. He would let none of these fields slip in the decades to come but would keep adding to them. The holistic approach, the grand view nourished by the interplay between diverse active interests, already were becoming apparent.
At this point he was invited by the Director, State Petroleum Research Institute, USSR, 'to organize research work in micro-palaeontology, for the purpose of correlation of the zones and strata of the oilfields'. Having accepted the offer and moved to Moscow, and clearly successful in the task, he was asked two years later by Professor I.M. Gubkin to organize a micropalaeontological laboratory at the new Institute of Mineral Fuels (meaning petroleum and natural gas) in Moscow. In that position he was a Senior Research Officer of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The laboratories were in Moscow, fieldwork was in the Crimea and the mountains of the Caucasus.
What has micropalaeontology to do with crabs and turtles? Micropalaeontology is the study of microfossils such as the mineralized skeletons of single-celled eucaryotes and very small animals. Their first attraction is that thousands of specimens per small sediment sample can be recovered from drilling – drilling beneath the land or shallow seas and more recently beneath the deep oceans. Their second attraction is that several groups of organisms had a high rate of speciation and extinction, thus delivering evolutionary events to mark the passage of geological time in small increments. Again, they are environmentally sensitive and community changes record subtle changes in environment, such as the global alternations between the icehouse and the greenhouse state. The microfossil group with the longest history of active research is the foraminifera, which are marine protozoans with the best overall fossil record of all organisms. Fossil foraminifera were being curated in museum collections and monographed in Vienna as long ago as the late eighteenth century, but it was decades before they were employed in the analysis of strata in the search for water and petroleum (in the Hapsburg Empire, as it happened); and credit for the first publication to bring applied micropalaeontology to the forefront in petroleum exploration and development is given to a study in the Gulf Coast in the United States as late as 1925. Glaessner had realized their importance in sorting out the record of deformed strata in the Vienna Basin. I suspect, though, that the main factor in his appointment to Moscow was his outstanding talent for seeing and pursuing the implications of his specialized palaeontological expertise. Certainly that talent was more highly developed than in virtually all other micropalaeontologists until the rise of the discipline of palaeoceanography, decades later. It was apparent from the beginning that this student had all the attributes to write high-quality taxonomic monographs but was too intellectually restless to spend his career doing only that. He was never going to be merely the expert in taxonomic esoterica and biostratigraphic age determinations, supplying grist to the mills of the generalist-synthesizers.
Most foraminifera live on and in the muds at the bottom of the sea. One of their evolutionary strategies, repeated many times, has been to grow large (to millimeters and even centimeters in size; remember that these are protozoans!) and to cultivate phytosymbionts. Another extremely successful strategy was to invade the open oceans as plankton (where phytosymbiosis was invented several more times). By 1934 three or four people including Glaessner had realized that the planktonic foraminifera, by floating far and wide and establishing far-flung populations and communities before dying, sinking and in due course fossilizing had a special potential for correlating and geologically dating strata of Cretaceous and Cainozoic age. It was Glaessner, however, who worked out the implications most thoroughly in a meticulous compilation of the distribution of species through time, giving zones based on that succession. In that way, the geology of the Caucasus could be clarified and petroleum exploration focused. This was at a time of urgent mapping and drilling in the push to develop the mineral and fuel resources of the Soviet Union. The Caucasus was Glaessner's second experience of an Alpine belt (meaning a belt of rocks deformed, metamorphosed and intruded in the past 100 million years) after the Alps themselves. Petroleum exploration has long since been supplanted by deep-ocean drilling and palaeoceanography as the main stimulus to and beneficiary of marine micropalaeontology, but Glaessner's Moscow papers are a very clear example of an intellectual antecedent to a burgeoning discipline. Nor did his pioneering work stop with demonstrating the consistently close correlation and age determination of strata and hence of geological events. His experience in palaeobiology and evolution in 'higher' organisms such as crabs and turtles brought a blast of fresh air into micropalaeontology. The very value of microfossils as a geological tool had put their study too much in the hands of typologists, essentialists or 'stamp collectors', who were not actually anti-evolutionists but whose taxonomy too often amounted to the same thing. Glaessner, on the other hand, was much more conscious of the additional attributes of fossils as documents of evolutionary palaeobiology. I return to that point below.
Martin Glaessner met Tina Tupikina at a private New Year's banquet in Moscow in 1933 when Tina, who came from the Urals, was a student (1). He managed to dissuade her from volunteering for teaching service in Mongolia, and to have her teach him – successfully – Russian. Martin and Tina Glaessner were married in Moscow in 1936 and a year later had to confront the choice newly presented by the Soviet Government to all its foreign specialists: to take out Soviet citizenship and remain, or to leave the country by the end of 1937. And so they left for Vienna in December 1937 where Martin did some consulting on petroleum exploration in Slovakia. But that was only a few months before the Anschluss, the advent of which brought on a particularly dark period in Martin's life, for a couple – but only a couple – of longstanding colleagues distanced themselves from him. On 12 March the systematic degradation and humiliation of the Jews began in earnest, on 19 March Martin was arrested and put to work cleaning the windows of the German army barracks. Meanwhile, he had been offered a job by George Martin Lees, Chief Geologist of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (forerunner of British Petroleum). Lees was one of several postgraduate students attracted to the outstanding geology department in the University of Vienna in the late 1920s, and he and Glaessner formed a firm and lasting friendship. Fortunately Martin's mother could find that letter from Lees and rush it to the authorities, who agreed to his release from detention and departure from Austria.
Lees went the crucial step further in hiring Martin for two tasks. One assignment was to continue writing Principles of Micropalaeontology, a project that arose out of his grasp of the broad field necessitated by his Moscow contracts and his lecturing on the subject. The Glaessners departed for London, where Martin pursued this task. The other assignment was to set up a micro-palaeontological laboratory for the Australasian Petroleum Company in Port Moresby, whither they repaired in late 1938 via petroleum consulting in Java and Sumatra. Tina's memory of that first laboratory is of a corrugated-iron, timber-framed shed, cement-floored and low-roofed, about fifteen feet square, and memorable especially for the naturalist's habits of Glaessner's assistant Leo Stach, who would arrange his specimens of the reef fauna immediately outside where the ants could clean up the rotting flesh (2).
The Glaessners would spend the next decade in Port Moresby, before and after the Pacific war, and in Melbourne where Martin was sent to join the Army. He was directed to continue his work which was seen as an essential contribution to the war effort. It produced a comprehensive report on work in Papua and New Guinea, a geological map on behalf of the Australian Army, work on samples from the Middle East on behalf of Irak Petroleum Company, and completion of his book. At that time Australia was very thinly populated with palaeontologists. Curt Teichert (3) could recall but ten full-time working palaeontologists in all of the country when he arrived in 1937, supported perhaps by an equal number of amateur or otherwise part-time workers.
Papua and Australian New Guinea presented many problems to the geologist and palaeontologist. Situated in one of the geologically most complex areas of the planet, it was also an extremely difficult terrain for field work. Rock exposure was poor, under extensive rainforests that clothed, in the more rugged areas, deeply dissected limestones (karsts); and the region is traversed by great rivers. Thus fossils in general and microfossils in particular were of vital importance in reconstructing geological history. However, the employment of fossils in this geology was no simple matter and Glaessner immediately encountered the problems already found by his forerunners in the Dutch East Indies to the west. What those problems boiled down to was that in that region, known Eurocentrically as the Far East (but the Indo-Pacific region to the biogeographers), the fossils were different from the fossils found in the classical areas where the time scale for the Mesozoic and Cainozoic eras had been constructed, namely western Europe, so that correlation by fossils back to the Europe-based standard geological time scale tended to raise more problems than it solved.
The most successful response to that difficulty was to assemble by induction and patient interpolation, from scattered outcrops and drillholes, a succession of regional fossil assemblages based on the large, phytosymbiont-bearing foraminifera, found in abundance among the recrystallised corals, molluscs and algae in the great tropical limestones. This systematic reconstruction of the fossil succession began in the 1920s in the Dutch East Indies (van der Vlerk, Umbgrove, Leupold, Tan Sin Hok) as the so-called Indo-Pacific letter classification of the Cainozoic, and its use spread to India, northern Australia, and the islands of the western Pacific. One of Glaessner's first initiatives in adapting this schema to Papua and Australian New Guinea was to prepare for the field parties a Field Guide to the Study of Larger Foraminifera for the Australasian Petroleum and Island Exploration Companies, for the genera can be recognized by hand lens thus aiding the identification of strata on the spot. One of the most magisterial of his papers was a review of correlations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and in Time-stratigraphy and the Miocene Epoch he analysed the framework for a critical time in the history of the region, and of the Earth.
Meanwhile, the pioneering work on planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy in the Caucasus was picked up and taken further by other palaeontologists in another region of both geological complexity and petroleum potential, the Caribbean, the culminating monograph being published in 1956. By then, eastern and western micropalaeontology had developed separately for almost two decades, creating difficulties such as confusion in the nomenclature and identification of species. Reconciliation began with Berggren (4). Occasionally in later years Glaessner wondered aloud whether planktonic foraminiferal zonation could have been developed subsequently in the southwest Pacific instead of in the Caribbean region. With hindsight, the answer was no, mostly because the appropriate fossil successions representing deep-sea environments are too brief, in the sense of adequately sampling geological time. Again, the geological and palaeontological teams were much larger in the Caribbean than they ever were in the south west Pacific. As well as that, though, Martin's penchant for correlation and synthesis was ideally suited for the problems of New Guinea geology. It was due to both the requirements of the times and his own inclination that he exploited biostratigraphy to its utmost as he went along, rather than developing a comprehensive zonation de novo. It was always going to be that fossils would clarify New Guinea geology more than the reverse.
New Guinea was Glaessner's third Alpine belt but, unlike the Alps and Caucasus, caught between continental blocks, this belt was caught between the Australian continent and the Pacific Ocean and its marginal ocean basins. In his sweeping way, Glaessner saw the many implications of a rigorously developed geological succession of fossils. One was, of course, to target and then analyse field surveys and drilling in the ongoing, expensive operation that is petroleum geology. Much of that work remained in company files – the fate, alas, of countless person-years' effort in applied micropalaeontology all round the planet – but some emerged. I vividly remember Glaessner's 'reading' of the companies' compilation, The Geological Results of Petroleum Exploration in Western Papua, 1937-1961, to the Geological Society of Australia in Adelaide in 1961 (5). Written ten years after Martin had left Port Moresby and Melbourne, it shows his very strong influence.
Another outcome was to review the context, once again to clarify the big picture. With A.B. Edwards of the CSIRO Mineragraphic Section, he wrote a monograph on the mineral resources of the western Pacific islands. With two petroleum exploration colleagues, he wrote the report that became a chapter on Australian New Guinea for Edgeworth David's Geology of the Commonwealth of Australia. With Curt Teichert, he reviewed the evolving concepts of 'geosynclines', the great, linear, filled depressions in the earth's crust that evolved into folded mountain belts. But he found, too, that the island of New Guinea was in the middle of one of the world's main arenas for geotectonic theorizing. In its trenches and island arcs, the southwest Pacific promised to be a modern analogue for ancient realms now distorted and conflated into Alpine fold belts. Glaessner saw that the geology of New Guinea and Melanesia was not known well enough or widely enough and constituted a serious gap in the general knowledge of the rich panorama of the southwest Pacific. Dutch geologists, marine geologists and geophysicists had made great advances in the East Indies in the 1930s and many of the theorists of the time had had their say: Umbgrove, van Bemmelen, Kuenen, Hess, Stille.
The area has thus become an important proving ground for modern geotectonic hypotheses and theories, from Hobbs', Lakes', and Umbgrove's theories of island arcs to du Toit's 'Wandering Continents', E.C. Andrews' views on continental growth, van Bemmelen's undation theory, and Woolnough's recent hypothesis combining the tetrahedral theory of the earth's shape with continental migration in a modified form and with the hypothesis of the origin of the moon from the present site of the Pacific Basin in early geological time.
And so Glaessner sketched the geotectonic position of New Guinea 'as a basis for further discussion' (his italics), drawing a series of tectonic conclusions, always constrained by current knowledge, about the vast region of the southwest Pacific.
Yet another outcome was the biotic history of the Indo-Pacific region and its interconnections with other biogeographic regions through geological time. I leave until last perhaps the most spectacular example of using microfossils to interpret a highly deformed terrain. In his 'spare time', Glaessner did field work in the Port Moresby district, always guided by laboratory determinations of the fossil assemblages and produced a synthesis of lasting influence.
I return for a moment to Moscow and to the development of a laboratory, research programme and lecture course in micropalaeontology. Concomitantly with his uncovering the pattern of geological succession in the planktonic foraminifera, Glaessner put a lot of effort into 'after-hours' study of evolutionary relationships, using a balanced strategy of anatomical similarities and geological distribution. In the 1930s, the taxonomy of the foraminifera was dominated by the indefatigable J.A. Cushman of Massachusetts, whose output kept alive an in-house journal – an output, though, the accretion of which did not display marked progress over the decades until his death in 1949, Cushman being a pre-evolutionary typologist. A new generation of skeletal anatomists and biostratigraphers were friendly with Glaessner in the 1930s and 1940s: Helen Jean Plummer in Texas, Manfred Reichel in Switzerland, Fritz Brotzen in Sweden, Tan Sin Hok in Java. As well as contributing to that effort with his Moscow papers, Glaessner could draw on a more profound knowledge of the European literature back into the nineteenth century than could most, especially in the English-speaking world. In Principles of Micropalaeontology, begun in Moscow as lectures to the Petroleum Institute and also the Palaeontological Institute at the University of Moscow in 1936-37, continued in London in 1938 and completed in Melbourne in 1943 (published 1945), he surveyed the main groups of microfossils their geological succession, environmental significance and importance to petroleum exploration. The writing of the work was sponsored by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, joined in 1943 by Standard Vacuum Oil Company (New York).
The book also made a major original contribution to the taxonomy of the foraminifera, putting their higher classification on a firmer evolutionary footing than it had ever enjoyed before. In its evolutionary taxonomic precepts, it bears a remarkable resemblance to G.G. Simpson's influential classification of the mammals; in a system dominated by Cushman's typology, that was a more noteworthy achievement than seems to have been appreciated at the time (6). Glaessner realized that fossils would reach their full potential in correlation and age determination only when species were incorporated into a pattern of speciation and extinction. He applauded the morphogenetic method established in the 1930s by Tan Sin Hok, by which successive events observed in the fossil record, constituting an evolutionary 'bioseries', could be confirmed as occurring in an orderly way in the same evolving lineage in different regions, thus providing a rigorous biochronology.
Principles was not easy reading. Although Glaessner listed it as a reference for his level III undergraduate course in Adelaide in the 1950s, really it was the kind of monograph that seemed to ripen and mature as the reader grasped the discipline more securely through active experience.
Towards the end of the 1940s, it seemed that Glaessner's association with New Guinean geology and petroleum exploration was approaching a natural conclusion. Certainly an offer from Sir Douglas Mawson to join the academic staff at Adelaide was accepted with enthusiasm. It was in Adelaide that he changed fields: the research shift to the late Precambrian at age about fifty probably was the major such event in Glaessner's career for the other main strands in a remarkable range of productive interests all trace back to his early years.
Mawson was appointed to the newly created chair of geology and mineralogy in 1921 and he in turn appointed Cecil Madigan soon after; they were highly influential both as individuals and in combination until Madigan's death in 1947 (7). By 1950 there was a new department of economic geology with Eric Rudd as professor – the companies that sponsored the chair wanted it placed at one remove from Mawson's influence – and the geology curriculum had been broadened, at least in the areas of mineralogy and petrology and regional geology but not in the 'soft-rock' domains of palaeontology and stratigraphy. To redress that imbalance, Mawson contacted Glaessner with an invitation to come to Adelaide, an invitation that was accepted immediately. The two men rapidly developed a firm friendship based on powerful and nonthreatening mutual respect.
Mawson was to retire in 1952 and he urged his new staff member to apply for the chair, but to the Adelaide establishment of the time, much as it was in the starchy 1940s as described by J.I.M. Stewart in Myself and Michael Innes (8) a readership for a Bohemian of Jewish origins and with Moscow connections was acceptable but a chair may have been a bit too much. Indeed the depth of Glaessner's knowledge and intellect, the crispness and clarity of his speech were rapidly recognized well beyond the disciplines of geology and palaeontology, but they were not sufficient to get him a chair and may actually have been counterproductive among the mandarins of academia; it took his nomination primo loco for the Chair in Palaeontology at the University of Vienna in 1964 to bestir Adelaide to offer him a personal Chair, seven years after his election to the Australian Academy of Science and when he was 57. He was one of the earliest Fellows of the Academy. He considered moving again, upon retirement, but stayed to spend almost four decades in Adelaide.
Glaessner came to a department and a town virtually without palaeontology since the death of Walter Howchin in 1936; there was but one specialist on living molluscs with a minority interest in fossils (9). There was no stratigraphy, sedimentology, or petroleum geology; there was no-one familiar enough with the geologically young mountain belts to grasp problems and progress in global tectonics. Australia as the 'oldest continent' dominated geological thinking and Adelaide's graduates had a long and impressive record at Broken Hill and other mining districts. Into this milieu Glaessner brought several active research and scholarly interests and a multilingual grasp of their literatures, and he had an enormous impact. It was a time of change: Twidale (10) points out that Australia's postwar immigration included several geologists from Europe 'for whom the geological story did not end with the Precambrian or Cambrian' and who integrated all the diverse earth science disciplines into their thinking as a matter of course. Glaessner was one of those who inculcated an attitude of mind in the study of landscape (which Twidale was reviewing) and in other fields – the important point being that he was not actively researching there but influencing those who were.
His impact on biology in the University of Adelaide was somewhat less, for he was an historical biologist whereas the biological departments were much stronger in functional biology – entomology, systematic botany, ecology, physiology, genetics – with minority interests in comparative morphology, taxonomy and evolutionary biology.
I once heard this comment second-hand from Mawson: 'I brought Glaessner to Adelaide to study the Archaeocyatha but he took off down to Port Willunga and I've hardly seen him since'. The archaeocyaths are a group of highly distinctive sponge-like organisms that evolved in the shallow seas of the early Cambrian, flourished in a multitude of species and went extinct, still within the Cambrian period; their occurrences in the Flinders Ranges and on Fleurieu Peninsula were well known internationally but their systematic study had been sporadic. Martin tended to agree with A.A. Öpik, though, that one should hesitate to direct a promising young student into a field which, however fascinating, was too sparsely populated by other workers for the project to register any real impact. Likewise he was reluctant to encourage students into fields that seemed not to promise employment. Thus he did little about developing the major subdiscipline of vertebrate palaeontology, one of his own interests and sustained in Australia by very few workers indeed. It was only a couple of years after his arrival in Adelaide that the first of the major 'modern' American expeditions into the fossil-bearing outback of South Australia was mounted by R.A. Stirton of Berkeley. That was the beginning of a long tradition of American/Australian collaboration – and expansion of employment opportunities – in which several of Glaessner's former students were involved.
The geologically young or Cainozoic sedimentary basins and fossils of southern Australia, in which Glaessner became interested during his Melbourne years, are very well represented in coastal exposures south of Adelaide and he established a research programme there with his first four postgraduates. The arguments for establishing 'Three foraminiferal zones in the Tertiary of Australia' mark a truly fundamental change from the old to the new in the stratigraphy of southern Australia, and it was not due merely to the accretion of new facts and insights. Although the description of fossil foraminiferal assemblages in southern Australia began in the 1880s, until the 1940s, the emphasis in research on age and correlation of the sediments remained firmly on the strata themselves and their prominent and sometimes splendid fossil faunas of molluscs. That was not at all strange, globally speaking, but it was the limitations of the molluscs, especially in their provincialism and their rarity in deeper-water strata, that forced the change in effort to foraminiferal assemblages (as indeed in Glaessner's own work in the Caucasus). His paper also introduced a timely rigour in the precepts and processes of correlation and age determination. Glaessner wrote the paper in part to record some important discoveries by his friend and greatly esteemed amateur colleague Walter Parr, who died prematurely in 1949.
During those years he was asked repeatedly to update Principles, which had been reprinted in Melbourne and in the USA, but he was caught, as it were, between an expanding field and his own progressive withdrawal from active research in that field. The 1950s were the time in foraminiferology of morphological analysis stimulated in the '30s by Plummer, Reichel and Martin himself ('On a new family of foraminifera'), continuing in the '40s with Brotzen's superb dissections, the highly promising technique of lamellar analysis in which Alan Smout used thin sections to look at the walls more closely than skeletal anatomists had done hitherto, and the impact of Alan Wood's petrographic work. Then came the big bursts of publication by Jan Hofker (Glaessner wrote a brief commentary on Hofker's iconoclastic work) and, less idiosyncratically, by Zeev Reiss. A sustained demand for a new edition of Principles notwithstanding, there was too much foraminiferal research to be digested here by one departing the field, to say nothing of rapid advances in other microfossil groups in the enormous postwar surge in marine geology. The book was reissued in 1963 but only with a new introduction to the text, mostly twenty years old by then. Out-of-date it surely was; irrelevant in its philosophy it surely was not.
An article in The Micropaleontologist in 1953 outlined quite ebulliently Glaessner's plans for micropalaeontology, many of which came to nothing because the need for laboratory assistance was viewed unsympathetically by his Head of Department, A.R. Alderman; some years later petroleum consulting provided the necessary salary but by then he was well launched into the Ediacarian. Later, he would state that lack of sympathy for the labour-intensive needs of micropalaeontology was the main impulse for changing research fields – he was attracted to the Precambrian, certainly, but to a significant degree he was discouraged from persisting in his old field of micropalaeontology. Meanwhile, the Geological Survey in the South Australian Department of Mines responded to the demands of systematic geological mapping and the search for earth resources by appointing a stratigrapher-palaeontologist and later a stratigrapher working in petroleum geology. There were several characteristics of South Australian geology – the need for extensive drilling, not least – that made the big problems more easily tackled by the Survey than by academia. Here too were factors in the shift.
A major paper on the Miocene came out in 1953 and the first on the late Precambrian in 1954, neatly heralding the change. Even so, Martin continued to consult in micropalaeontology in western and southern Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia. When the American Museum of Natural History launched Micropalaeontology in 1955, the editors invited Glaessner to write the first paper, a compelling review of the cross-links between taxonomy, biostratigraphy and palaeoecology. Through the 1950s and early 1960s several postgraduate students wrote theses on Cainozoic stratigraphy and micropalaeontology under his supervision. A symposium on the Australian Cainozoic record held at the Melbourne ANZAAS in 1967 was dominated by his students. All his old interests produced new writing: fossils from New Guinea, tectonics of the southwest Pacific and Australasia, Indo-Pacific correlations, foraminiferal morphology and taxonomy, decapod crustaceans. His last major effort on the foraminifera was to review the major evolutionary trends on which he had based the higher taxa established in Principles. It was not the last of the foraminifera, though – he was to write papers on some of the very earliest forms known, as part of his next research programme.
I should mention here Glaessner's brilliant lecturing in stratigraphy at Adelaide: the third year course was one of those gems that people knew about even though they had not taken it. It was the ideal vehicle for his sweeping vision, beginning with the actual record of the rocks and how – and how not – to interpret them, and ranging into palaeogeography, tectonics and ancient climates. One outcome of word getting around was the opinion that he should write up the lectures as a book – there were available the old-style compendia of strata and the newer conflations of stratigraphy and sedimentation, but there was still plenty of space for the book he had in mind. But the revolution in sea-floor spreading and continental drift terminated the plan, not because the lectures became redundant but because he felt ill-equipped to put them into the new context.
Adelaide gave its name to the Adelaide System, the rocks of the Flinders-Mt Lofty Ranges, of late Proterozoic age ('Adelaidean'; more recently subsumed in the 'Neoproterozoic' era), extending down with little or no break below the Cambrian with its typical shelly fossils. Mawson and R.C. Sprigg described and named the subdivisions of the Adelaide System and in 1946 Sprigg found numerous 'fossil jellyfish' in the Ediacara Hills. According to Sprigg (11) they were dismissed at first inspection in 1947 by both Mawson and Glaessner as fortuitous inorganic markings, not fossils. At the time and also in retrospect, that was not a bad null hypothesis, because there is quite a catalogue of pseudo-fossils hailed by searchers keen to extend the fossil animal record back in time into the vast emptiness 'below the trilobites'. For the fossil record started very suddenly with trilobites and other shelly fossils – the quantum jump in the history of life at the base of the Cambrian – and except for 'algae' there seemed to be almost no record of earlier life. This situation lasted from the early nineteenth until well into the twentieth century and until there were two major advances: the Ediacarian discovery, and discoveries of microfossils in fine-grained cherts. (In the 1960s and 1970s there were added the study of the stromatolites (built by algal communities), organic geochemistry and stable isotopic studies, plus indirect lines of enquiry such as 'molecular palaeontology'. Glaessner took the initiative in the 1960s in finding funds and students to tackle the first two of those.)
Thus when Glaessner looked again in the 1950s at the Ediacarian 'jellyfish' or medusoids, he was working in an intellectual milieu ripe for advances into the terra incognita below the Cambrian. And look again he did, in the first instance perhaps because Sprigg added to his bestiary of jellyfish the highly distinctive Dickinsonia, of doubtful affinities but probably in Sprigg's opinion a Coelenterate too. But Glaessner thought that it was more likely a 'worm'. Another advance was to study the frondlike 'algae' found by Sprigg: they were identified as colonial Cnidarians. Again, Glaessner added a new annelid and a couple of truly enigmatic animals. By 1960 he was making such generalizations as the following: (i) the fauna at Ediacara consisted of much more than only medusoids or Coelenterata, for it included Coelomata of annelid-arthropod affinities, which meant that phylogenetically very advanced animals were among those appearing suddenly in the fossil record; (ii) the fauna had genera in common with assemblages in South Africa and England, thus were already global and not some local phenomenon; (iii) the age of the Pound Quartzite was not early Cambrian but Precambrian, and we surely had by now an assemblage of animals truly antecedent to the first animals with mineralized skeletons. At about that time, the French palaeontologists Henri and Geneviève Termier proposed l'Ediacarien, premier étage paléontologique, because in their opinion the first animals should signify the first stage of the Phanerozoic eon; and Glaessner began using 'Ediacarian' informally in the 1960s.
The systematic study of the Ediacarian fossils was continued by Glaessner and his research associate Mary Wade. There were several dimensions to its context, as exemplified in these questions: Given the lack of known faunas foreshadowing the Ediacarian with its advanced animals, where did these come from? What are the links, if any, with the succeeding Cambrian communities? How cosmopolitan was the fauna and what are the limits to its geological age? How come so many soft-bodied specimens are preserved so well in shallow-water sands, a very rare event in the fossil record? This research programme occupied much of the last thirty years of Glaessner's career. In the broadest terms he had three objectives, of which two were accomplished pretty well and one less so.
One of those goals was the geohistorical context, the distribution of the Ediacarian fauna in space and time. Glaessner's efforts to that end culminated in a major proposal with his friend Preston Cloud to establish the Ediacarian as the initial period of the Phanerozoic eon, characterized by the oldest known multicellular animal life. The Ediacarian was sandwiched between the late Proterozoic glaciations and the Cambrian and it took its place as the time of major diversification of animals (which continued into the Cambrian); by the early 1980s there were more than two dozen species described as well as tracks on the seafloor, in a biota distributed worldwide. Putting the base of the Ediacarian just at the top of the glacial succession in the Flinders Ranges (and well below the Pound Subgroup with its Ediacara member and the fossil assemblages) was not merely convenient and suggestive but based on the presence of the oldest known probable metazoan, Bunyerichnus dalgarnoi Glaessner. In the 1990s Bunyerichnus lacks a champion for its animalness and the Ediacarian is being promoted as a somewhat shorter period at the top of the Neoproterozoic, not at the bottom of the Phanerozoic eon.
Glaessner's second major goal was to write The Dawn of Animal Life, which he also achieved in 1984 as 'a summary of the results of 25 years of work and lecturing'. A thorough and typically restrained major example of Glaessnerian scholarship, it was well received as an authoritative statement of one view of the Ediacarian biota and its place in earth and life history. One view? Glaessner's very last scholarly efforts were to prepare for the requested second edition of the Dawn, an edition that will not appear. The Ediacarian organisms were, in his steadfast opinion, metazoans – animals – the taxa from Ediacara itself or the Flinders Ranges all (except one, of unknown affinity) being placed in still-living animal phyla. An alternative viewpoint is the hypothesis by Adolf Seilacher, that such a taxonomic classification is based on characteristics which only seem to be animal, and that the 'Vendozoa', as the bulk of the Ediacarian organisms have been called, are an evolutionary experiment antecedent to the animals and not related to them at all. Glaessner was aware of the hypothesis but waited for years for something substantial to appear in the literature, something to chew over and to respond to (he refused to comment on media reports), and one of the very last things that he read was Seilacher's Lethaia paper (12), by which he was not convinced. He never read S.J. Gould's remark that his 'traditional reading' one day will be called 'Glaessner's shoehorn or Glaessner's insight, as the case may be' (13). Regardless of the outcome of that debate – and in 1994 'Glaessner's insight' is holding up well amongst those most familiar with the Ediacarian fossils (e.g. (14)) – the Ediacarian research programme will stand as a major achievement in getting much of the fauna described and analysed, in bringing it to the attention of all who are interested in the history of life on earth, in opening up the broader issues such as chronostratigraphy and macroevolution, and in attracting several productive students to work on the Ediacarian or on adjacent questions in geohistory and biohistory. The latter included the study of stromatolites and organic geochemistry.
Glaessner's third major hope was to produce a monograph of the Ediacarian fossils, fully illustrated by photographs and reconstructions. But he had a lifelong problem with – as he perceived it – a total lack of artistic talent, so that he had to rely on others for illustrations or drawn or modelled reconstructions. That was one of several reasons for a collaboration, but the offer he made to collaborate on a comprehensive atlas during his retirement came to nothing and the atlas was never prepared.
There are two major roots to the history of the Earth and its biosphere. One was sometimes called 'natural history' and the other 'natural philosophy'. Natural history is concerned primarily with reconstructing the history of the Earth and begins with the question: What is the pattern of rock and fossil relationships in space and time? Research in that tradition built the geological time scale and the succession of life. In natural philosophy on the other hand we are engaged in understanding the processes of geological change, that is, in asking, What are the processes that have brought about those patterns? Earth and life history clearly can dispense with neither root. In those terms Glaessner was a natural historian, always restlessly exploring the implications to earth and life history of his own and others' work of identifying and classifying fossils and correlating the sedimentary strata whence they were extracted. In another simplified but useful polarization, he was a Lyellian 'gradualist', not a 'catastrophist'. It was simply not to his taste or style to look for radical alternatives when 'uniformitarian' models of earthly processes were available and seemingly adequate.
Hence the central conclusion from his last research programme that the Ediacarian biota belongs among the animal phyla still flourishing today – that the roots of animal evolution are to be found in the Ediacarian, not immediately afterwards. Hence too Glaessner's reluctance – some would have said, notorious reluctance – to accept the theory of drifting continents in the 1950s. In setting the geological story of New Guinea in the greater context of the geotectonics of the southwest Pacific, he also set it in the 'fixist' geotectonic paradigm of the 1940s, rejecting the 'drift' alternative in a footnote. His contribution to the Australian celebration of the Darwinian centenary in 1959 was the interplay between geographic isolation and communication in the history of the Australian biota, the context being the rise and fall of sea level, the growth and decay of island chains, the vicissitudes of climatic fluctuation, but all in essentially the modern or fixed configuration of oceans and continents. That was the ruling paradigm, usually attributed to the influence of such biogeographers as G.G. Simpson and Philip Darlington: that biogeography can be analysed in terms of biotic mobility. If animals and plants can disperse so efficiently, then why disperse continents to explain their distributions?
Glaessner converted as rapidly as most to the theory of seafloor spreading and its corollaries when their time came in the 1960s. Probably he appreciated their significance as the first compelling mechanism for continental drift more rapidly than most, simply because he had a broader command of the pertinent biogeohistorical evidence and pattern than did most. But he had been more acutely aware than most that all too much geological and biological evidence was not robust enough to carry theories of continental drift or transoceanic land bridges, so that drift was a possible but not a unique or particularly compelling explanation for spatio-temporal patterns ranging from biogeographic disjunctions to geomagnetic polarities. Before the revolution he was outspokenly conservative, afterwards he was disengaged from geotectonics, being deeply involved in the Ediacarian. Even so, he retained a very lively interest, as Twidale (15) recalls: 'Nor did he make the mistake of clinging to untenable theories. I well remember him making a spirited attack on those who favoured large scale lateral movements (the 'drifters') at the ANZAAS Conference held in Canberra in 1953, but once the reality of plate tectonics was established no one was more innovative and enthusiastic in using the theory and its implications to resolve geological problems'.
Thus Martin was a gradualist, of the generation and more or less of the mould of such outspoken American gradualists as G.G. Simpson in palaeobiology and evolution, James Gilluly in general and regional geology, and H.D. Hedberg in stratigraphy. He viewed with equanimity and close interest the retreat of gradualism in earth history during the 1970s-1980s (the appellation by the new triumphalists is 'dogmatic gradualism'), without getting too excited about the more radical palaeobiological claims of taxonomic cladism, punctuated equilibrium and revolution during biospeciation, or earthly catastrophe caused by the impact of heavenly bodies.
It is of some interest that his gradualistic bent was so strong from the very early days onwards, for he was 'Anglo-American' and not at all 'Germanic' in that. Martin always had an interest in the functional morphology of animals and in organic evolution, most of all in palaeontology as an integrated discipline, as would be expected of a product of the Viennese school of Othenio Abel, reinforced by his experience of the British Museum. He often drew the parallel between the schools of palaeobiology, the central European of the 1920s and the American of the 1970s, a parallel later written up by W.E. Reif (16). I have mentioned his collaboration on crustacean studies with Karl Beurlen whilst still in his mid-twenties. Now Beurlen was also a systematist, stratigrapher and palaeobiologist of comparably broad interests but he was the founder of the evolutionary doctrine of 'typostrophism', a combination of orthogenesis (goal-directed evolution), cyclism (one version of historicism), and saltationism (sudden jumps in evolutionary lineages) the main proponent of which was O.H. Schindewolf, a student of the tectonic geologist Hans Stille known for his theory of sudden, worldwide episodes of tectonism punctuating long periods of comparative calm. Include the 'macromutationist' geneticist Richard Goldschmidt and we have here a wide spread of the luminaries in the Germanic traditions of idealistic morphology and its genetic and geological counterparts (17), at a time when all of those elements were being rejected or discredited by gradualists, particularly in the USA. With perhaps two exceptions, there is no trace in Glaessner's work of this tradition. One exception is that his experience with living and fossil crustaceans gave him a respect for anatomical growth and form that was marginalized in the 'modern synthesis' of evolutionary theory in the 1930s and 1940s. Another just might be detectable in his immense respect for the morphological/phylogenetic research on the Indo-Pacific larger foraminifera by Tan Sin Hok.
Although it turned out that he did not have to practise at law, Glaessner's legal training would influence his habits of crisply marshalling evidence and argument and presenting them in a precise, clipped manner. One heard complaints from time to time that his lecturing was rather difficult to understand for just that reason – more waffle, more circumlocution would have given the listener sufficient time to absorb his main points and the student time to make notes. Nor was there a superfluity of words in his writing. One would hear too the opinion that Glaessner was dogmatic. His advocacy certainly was forceful, but that did not hinder his ability to abandon an intellectual position when it became untenable. He developed the habit very early of reading up the context of a problem exhaustively and writing a review, often including a disclaimer that this was a 'preliminary' effort intended to stimulate further discussion and research. But he did indeed speak and write positively – it was possible to disagree with him but it was very difficult to misunderstand either his opinion or his uncertainty, as the case may be.
Another great evolutionist of Germanic origin expressed his own views on that matter in words that are remarkably apposite here. Attracted to the Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis, Ernst Mayr (18) has written: 'Where the situation is quite unresolved, I have described the opposing viewpoints in categorical, sometimes almost one-sided, terms in order to provoke a rejoinder, if such is justified. Because I hate beating about the bush, I have sometimes been called dogmatic. I think this is the wrong epithet for my attitude. A dogmatic person insists on being right, regardless of opposing evidence. This has never been my attitude and, indeed, I pride myself on having changed my mind on frequent occasions. However, it is true that my tactic is to make sweeping categorical statements. Whether or not this is a fault, in the free world of the interchange of scientific ideas, is debatable. My own feeling is that it leads more quickly to the ultimate solution than a cautious sitting on the fence.' Mayr could have been describing Glaessner.
That sort of personality can be perceived quite differently by peers and students, those secure in their own standing and those less secure, those who know someone well and those who do not. Glaessner will be remembered affectionately by numerous former students, including many who did not study advanced palaeontology. His supervisor-postgraduate relationships would typically be a strengthening mutual regard punctuated by disagreements. Those disagreements could be strong and exchanges could be heated, but that made no difference to his respect for his students' maturing opinions and especially to his support of them in public or in the presence of others. Basically a somewhat shy man, he cared about his students, his colleagues and his profession to a degree that sadly was not always fully apparent behind a somewhat abrupt comment, a forceful advocacy of an opinion, even an eruption. Not a frequenter of the departmental tearoom, nor one to take kindly to the casual daily interruptions that sustained a few academics of his generation, he pulled his weight and more in teaching, supervision and administration. As acting Head he ran departmental meetings crisply and formally. His relationships with his colleagues were friendly in the main but not particularly close. He never hesitated when prompt action on his part could avert someone's personal problem or a more general difficulty. There were more acts of kindness as quiet words, telephone calls, or notes than we will ever know.
In his retirement Martin was the soul of tact, taking a close interest in the affairs of the Department and of the profession, always willing to contribute opinions and references when asked but not intervening. To the end he retained his lifelong balance of interests between the basic, philosophical underpinnings of his sciences and their economic applications.
Glaessner disposed of his micropalaeontological library on his retirement. His remaining research and scholarly library was bequeathed to the South Australian Museum.
A career spanning 65 years of research, scholarship and service to the profession concluded with his death on 23 November 1989. Martin Glaessner is survived by Tina, his wife of 52 years, and their daughter Verina, a writer and journalist living in London. An acknowledgement in the Dawn reads: 'It will be obvious to readers that I – and perhaps they too – owe much gratitude to my wife Tina who patiently taught me Russian fifty years ago. I must thank her also for preventing my own premature fossilization.'
Glaessner's contribution to the Australian war effort was to work on a map of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and other tasks for the Australian Army, the review of resources with A.B. Edwards being in the latter category.
He was the senior author of 'Stratigraphic nomenclature in Australia', the founding document on the Australian Code of Stratigraphic Nomenclature; this country was the third, after the USA and Canada, to adopt a stratigraphic code. When he resigned from membership of the International Sub-commission on Stratigraphic Classification of the IUGS Commission on Stratigraphy in 1989, he was one of only four remaining of the original 32 charter members of 1955. He was one of the editorial board selected by Menner and Hedberg to scrutinize preparation of the ISSC International Stratigraphic Guide. In that kind of work one saw at its most impressive the fusing of the rigour born of legal training with the vision of the true historian. He was very strong on the need for codes and constraints and the discipline needed to effect communication; he was extremely quick at the same time to spot and criticize legalism and pendantry.
In his retirement he enjoyed sitting on the South Australian Underground Waters Appeal Board, then the South Australian Water Resources Tribunal (1972-1982). He was Consultant to the governments of Greece and the Bahamas on geology related to the International Law of the Sea (1973, 1975-1978).
His contributions to editing included being the first Honorary Editor of the Geological Society of Australia (1953-1958). In that position he took the initiatives that produced in due course the regional geologies of the Australian states, co-editing himself Geology of South Australia. He co-edited the Sir Douglas Mawson Anniversary Volume. In retirement he planned and edited The Geosciences in Australia for the 25th International Geological Congress, held in Sydney in 1976. An outcome of a co-convened symposium at that IGC was Contributions to the Geological Time Scale. For many years he was an editor of the Elsevier review journal Earth-Science Reviews.
Elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 1957, he served on the Council, 1960-62, and was Chairman of the National Committee for Geological Sciences, 1962-1977.
This memoir was originally published in Historical Records of Australian Science, vol.10, no.1, 1994. It was written by Brian McGowran, Department of Geology and Geophysics, The University of Adelaide.
The manuscript was read by Mrs Tina Glaessner, Mrs Verina Glaessner, Mrs Susi McGowran, Dr Richard Jenkins, Dr Bill Stuart, Professor Peter Bishop, Dr Rowley Twidale, Dr John Jones, Mr Lee Parkin, Mr Neville Pledge, Mr David Taylor, and the Editor, and I am grateful for both their general impressions and their more specific corrections and suggestions. I am responsible for the imbalances and errors that remain. It is a special privilege to acknowledge Mrs Glaessner's reminiscences and comments and her encouragement, as well as the loan of photographs. Professor H.G. Küpper (Vienna) provided some most useful information. Mrs Sophia Craddock typed the first draft of the bibliography and Mr Richard Barrett did the portrait, taken in 1988, and re-did the other photography.
An account of Glaessner's career with bibliography was presented by Dorothy Hill to a colloquium marking his retirement and published in Jones and McGowran (19, 20). I have written brief tributes in local newsletters (6, 21) as have Vogel (22) and Küpper (23) in his first Sprachraum, and Cloud (24) (who initiated the award of the Walcott Medal). B.P. Radhakrishna, Editor of the Geological Society of India, produced The World of Martin F. Glaessner (25), beginning his Preface thus: 'Professor Martin F. Glaessner was the most outstanding palaeontologist of his time and the earliest to be elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of India'.
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