Memorial to Warren B. Hamilton, 1925-2018


Warren B. Hamilton (1925-2018) was a widely traveled U.S. geologist whose work integrated observational geology and geophysics into planetary-scale syntheses. Hamilton’s early-career insights, before the advent of plate tectonics, include recognizing the need for continental mobility to explain the geology of the southern hemisphere and western United States. The Mojave Desert north of Blythe, California, was virtually unexplored geologically when, in 1958, he launched the field work that would reveal the Grand Canyon succession of sedimentary strata in drastically thinned, contorted form. Following an International Geophysical Year expedition to Antarctica, his 1960 paper in Geological Survey Research gave the Transantarctic Mountains their name. Subsequent field work covered every part of the globe, including a major new synthesis of Indonesian geology (1969–1979). In all of these studies, he sought to understand local rocks in terms of their dynamic evolution and how that connected with processes operating up to global and billion-year scales -- often finding results that contradict conventional wisdom. Eventually, this broad vision extended beyond Earth itself, leading to new interpretations of other terrestrial planets. Hamilton’s last synthesis paper, a culmination of his career, will be published posthumously in 2019.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Geological Society of America Memorials


Geological Society of America

Document Type

News Article