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The Berkeley Geochronology Center (BGC) is a unique place. It is the only institution in the world that is wholly dedicated to deciphering the history of the Earth and our nearby planetary neighbors. The vast history encompassed by this mission requires diverse tools, and BGC thus houses a singular array of techniques and expertise to place important events into timescales ranging from relatively recent times, i.e., thousands of years ago, to that of the early stages of our Solar System billions of years ago.
Much of our work is focused on fundamental scientific questions such as what caused mass extinctions in the past, when and why massive volcanism occurred on Earth, and what was the history of bombardment of the Earth (and our nearby neighbors like the Moon) by extraterrestrial objects. Better understanding of these phenomena and their possible interrelationships relies to large extent on establishing their timing. Much of our work is also focused on issues relevant to societal concerns such as volcanic and seismic hazards, and global climate change.
One of the consistent themes in our research is human evolution. Throughout BGC’s history, we have devoted considerable effort to establishing the timing and tempo of the succession of pre-human ancestors and their archeological records. Our ongoing emphasis on this topic is a legacy of the pioneering work by Garniss Curtis, who I’m sad to report passed away late last year at the age of 93. Garniss’ work in the 1950’s with colleague Jack Evernden was the first application of the potassium-argon dating method to paleoanthropology, and it provided stunning evidence for the antiquity of human evolution.
Garniss founded BGC in collaboration with Ann and Gordon Getty. Though initially cradled with the Institute of Human Origins, BGC became independent in 1994. Thus as we approach our twentieth anniversary as an independent institution, we mourn the loss of our co-founder. Garniss will long be remembered as an outstanding geologist, generous mentor, and deeply humanistic man. For more information about Garniss, including a celebration of his life planned for September 29, 2013, please visit http://garnisscurtis.net/.
With Best Wishes,
Paul R. Renne
President and Director