In Memoriam: Samuel A. Bowring (1953-2019)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Samuel A. Bowring has passed away.

Sam Bowring was the Robert R. Schrock Professor Emeritus of Geology in EAPS. He was a legend in geochronology (pushing the limits of geochronologic techniques to unprecedented analytical precision and accuracy) and a world expert in constraining rates of geologic processes and the timing of significant events in the geologic record. He investigated the explosion of multi-cellular life in the Early Cambrian as well as the end-Permian and the end-Cretaceous mass extinctions. He is also highly regarded for his work on the origin and evolution of continental crust, showing, for instance, that that the Acasta Gneisses in the Northwest Territories of Canada were 4 billion years old.

Sam Bowring was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and raised in Durham, New Hampshire. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a BS in Geology in 1976, from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology with an MS in 1980, and from University of Kansas with a PhD in Geology in 1985. He was an Assistant Professor at Washington University from 1984 to 1990. In 1991 he joined the faculty of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT.

His major contributions were recognized by many organizations and institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences (Member, 2015), the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (Member, 2013), the American Geophysical Union (Fellow, 2008; Norman L. Bowen Award, 2010; Walter H. Bucher Medal, (2016), the Geochemical Society (Fellow, 2011), and the Geological Society of America (Fellow, 1999)—and, of course, also here at MIT (Breene M. Kerr Professorship, 2002-2007; Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow, 2006—). Sam was a dedicated teacher and mentor and made many contributions to EAPS, including serving the first-year learning community Terrascope (2006-2014) as associate director and then director, and chairing the (former) Undergraduate Committee (2002-2016).

Sam will be missed by his friends, colleagues, and students, but his enormous impact on MIT and Earth science endures.

The family has requested privacy at this time. A formal obituary page can be found at this link:

For anyone who would like to share remembrances of Sam, please send them to Jen Fentress, EAPS Communications Officer:


— Rob van der Hilst
Head of the Department