Jaan Terasmae

Jaan Terasmae

Jaan Terasmae, Professor Emeritus Earth Sciences at Brock University, died suddenly on Tuesday January 20, 1998. Jaan was born on May 28, 1926 in Estonia. He fled Estonia at the outbreak of the Second World War to continue his education in Sweden, obtaining his Phil. Cand. degree from the University of Uppsala in 1951. In 1952 Jaan emigrated to Canada to begin work on his Doctoral degree at McMaster University in Hamilton where he concentrated on Quaternary geology, paleoecology and palynology. Upon receiving his degree in 1955 Jaan went to the Geological Survey of Canada to take up the position of Head of the Pleistocene Palynology Laboratory, which he continued to run for the next 12 years. In 1968 Jaan took over as Head of the Paleoecology and Geochronology Section of the Survey.

In 1968 Jaan was approached to leave the Survey and become the first Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences at Brock University. Jaan was instrumental in setting up the undergraduate and graduate programs with a focus on Quaternary Geology and Environmental Geology, these being among, if not the first such programs in Canada. Jaan also recognized the value of field work in teaching and led a number of field trips and field courses. One of the most interesting field projects was the link he helped establish between the community of Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, and Brock University. In 1972, with support from Brock University, Munster University, the Polar Continental Shelf Project and German Shipbuilding interests, the Pond Inlet Research program set out to study the sea ice in Eclipse Sound as an aid in designing vessels that could travel in the region. Several Brock Geology undergraduates who were field assistants with the project had completed their degrees but would not be able to attend the Spring Convocation prior to heading to Pond Inlet. The Department of Geological Sciences received approval to hold a special convocation for the students at Pond Inlet, with a dais constructed using a dogsled placed on gasoline drums. Several pictures of this event were published in TIME magazine.

Jaan’s research interests spanned all aspects of Quaternary geology. His palynological studies documented the glacial and interglacial events in North America, especially the last glacial termination in Ontario. With co-workers from the Canada Centre for Inland Waters he carried out limnological studies of the Great Lakes Basin and he also carried out various dendrochronological studies, and he published more than 125 scholarly articles. Jaan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1977, and in 1990 CANQUA awarded him the W. A. Johnston Medal for meritorious service and professional excellence in Quaternary research. At the time of his retirement in July 1991, Jaan maintained membership in 23 scientific societies, including CAP. He served as CAP’s President in 1985.

At the suggestion of Jaan’s colleagues, associates and students The “Jaan Terasmae Student Award for Quaternary Studies” will be set up at Brock University. Jaan is survived by his wife of 44 years Vaike, who still resides in St. Catharines, and a brother, Ilmar, of Trenton.

Francine M. G. McCarthy
Department of Earth Sciences, Brock University
St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1, Canada

Note: This article appeared in CAP Newsletter 21(1):6-7, 1998.