Graham Williams was awarded the AASP Medal of Scientific Excellence
at the recent IPC meeting in Houston, Texas. The medal was presented
by Jan Jansonius at the AASP Annual Luncheon on June 26, 1996. The citation,
which was read by Jan Jansonius, is as follows:
Graham Williams began his study of fossil dinoflagellates as a
postgraduate student with Charles Downie in 1959. His 1963
doctoral thesis dealt with Paleogene dinoflagellates of the
London Clay. This was one of the first detailed studies of
Paleogene fossil dinoflagellates and in its published form, as
part of the now famous "DDSW" (Davey, Downie, Sarjeant and Williams
1966) monograph, had great influence — both for the descriptions and
indicated ranges of many important new species, but also for the
exemplary style and format of the descriptions.
After his graduation, Graham found a job as palynologist with Pan
American Petroleum (now Amoco Petroleum Company). His first project
was to set up a biostratigraphic framework for nonmarine Tertiary
sediments of Washington and Oregon, obviously based on pollen and
spores. Next, he was assigned to study the biostratigraphy of the
East Coast offshore of Canada where Amoco was drilling. When, in
1971, the Geological Survey of Canada opened an eastern office,
the Atlantic Geoscience Centre (now Geological Survey of Canada,
Atlantic) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, it was natural that Graham
would become its resident Mesozoic-Tertiary palynostratigrapher.
During the early years at AGC, Graham examined a large number of
wells and gained an increasing knowledge of dinoflagellate
biostratigraphy. This phase of his career culminated in a GSC
Paper entitled "Palynological zonation and correlation of 67 wells,
eastern Canada" (Barss et al. 1979), of which Graham was the most
significant contributor, having run 44 of the 67 wells in about
eight years. Graham was also the moving force behind several papers
outlining the dinoflagellate zonation of offshore eastern Canada
(Williams 1975; Williams and Bujak 1977; Bujak and Williams 1977,
During that same decade, in spite of this exhausting pace, Graham
started his collaboration with Judi Lentin in producing the "Lentin
and Williams" indexes of fossil dinoflagellates (Lentin and Williams
1973, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993). This index is a primary reason
why fossil dinoflagellate taxonomy is in an organized state, unlike
the taxonomy of most other microfossil groups; it has set the standard
for other indexes. Graham is now involved in a seventh edition of this
classic. Still during this period, Graham used his expertise to contribute
chapters on dinoflagellates and related microfossils to two multi-authored
textbooks (Williams 1977, 1978) and as well was the driving force behind
two editions of a glossary on dinoflagellate and acritarch terminology
(Williams et al. 1972, 1978), of which a third edition is almost ready
for publication. And, finally, he co-authored a major monograph on fossil
peridinioid dinoflagellates (Lentin and Williams 1980).
In 1978, Graham became Head of the Eastern Petroleum Geology Subdivision
at the AGC, but he continued to publish. Apart from two editions of the
Lentin and Williams Index, he completed another contribution on the
Paleogene of southern England (Bujak et al. 1980), and three important
conceptual papers, respectively on dinoflagellate evolution (Bujak and
Williams 1981), dinoflagellate diversity through time (Bujak and
Williams 1979), and paleoprovincialism (Lentin and Williams 1980).
In 1985, Graham realized that management was not his true vocation, and
he stepped back into the trenches as a research scientist. His first
task was as co-editor of a major volume on the continental margin of
eastern Canada in the Decade of North American Geology (DNAG) series
(Keen and Williams 1990), which included a definitive overview of the
biostratigraphy (Williams et al. 1990).
Indeed, Graham's contributions to areas other than palynology have
become increasingly noticeable. He was a leading founder of the
Atlantic Geoscience Society, to which he made a number of significant
contributions, such as assisting in the planning and production of a
series of videos on geology for use in schools. He further is involved
in the EdGeo instructional workshops for teachers in Nova Scotia, as well
as SITS (Scientists in the Schools) program, and regularly gives
presentations on geology to school children. Graham was senior editor of
the "Lexicon of Canadian Stratigraphy. Volume VI. Atlantic Region"
(Williams et al. 1985), and currently is deputy-editor of Canada's most
prestigious geoscience journal, the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
However, Graham's most important expertise is in dinoflagellate research,
where his vast energy and acute perceptiveness have caused him to acquire
an encyclopedic knowledge of fossil dinoflagellates which he is willing
to share without reserve. His reviews of manuscripts are invariably
helpful and instructive, because he is a great teacher. For two recent
courses (given in 1994, mainly with Henk Brinkhuis and Sarah Damassa,
at Utrecht and Houston), Graham developed a system of sheets detailing
published justification for ranges—a further innovative tool demonstrating
his great respect for, and attention to, detail.
Since stepping down from management, Graham has continued his research
on dinoflagellates. This resulted in a benchmark publication on
dinoflagellate biostratigraphy (Williams and Bujak 1985); a catalogue
of fossil dinoflagellate genera with his great friend Lew Stover
(Stover and Williams 1987); contributions to the New Series of the
prestigious "Eisenack Catalog" (Fensome et al. 1991, 1993, 1995, in
press), not to mention smaller but still important papers. He further
played a vital role in formulating the first detailed comprehensive
phylogenetic classification of dinoflagellates (Fensome et al. 1993a),
and has been integrally involved in contributing ideas to a series of
papers on dinoflagellate evolutionary patterns (Fensome et al., in
press; MacRae et al., in press; Damassa and Williams, in press).
Perhaps most significant for AASP was Graham's idea to produce a
multi-authored textbook on palynology, that evolved into
Palynology: Principles and Applications (Jansonius and McGregor
1996). Graham, Rob Fensome, and Bruce Tocher together set out the
first scheme for this work while driving home from Dino IV, but it
was Graham's initial concept that took off under the impetus of his
drive and energy. Typically, in the chapter for which he was
responsible (Stover et al. 1996), Graham made himself the last author,
although he contributed by far the greater share of the work.
Graham has always considered himself to be a member of the larger
paleontological and geological community, but in co-operative
projects is modest and self-effacing—even when he provides the main
stimulus towards progress. Throughout his career he has shown integrity
and excellent judgement, and has contributed enormously in nurturing
what was an emerging discipline, helping to shepherd it to a maturity
where it has become an essential component of frontier exploration
worldwide. Characteristically, the larger part of Graham's monumental
output is in joint authorship. This account gives only the highlights
of his career; the details would fill many more pages. With prodigious
energy and phenomenal power of concentration, he will work long days to
finish his commitments, while always keeping a positive attitude and
cheerful disposition. He cares deeply not only about science as a
field of endeavour, but about his colleagues as scientists and people.
He has achieved excellence in every sense of the word, and his
nomination for the AASP Medal of Scientific Excellence is surprising
only in that it has been so long in coming.
Note: This article appeared in CAP Newsletter 19(2):14-16, 1996.
This citation was originally published in AASP Newsletter 29(3):6-7.
It appeared, together with literature citations and responses, in
Palynology Volume 21.