Stanley A. J. Pocock

Stanley A. J. Pocock
December 12 1928 – February 29 2004

Stanley Pocock was born and raised in London, England. In 1950 he obtained his BSc in Geology, with a major in Palaeobotany, at University College, London. He then served in the military, including time in the Korean war. From 1952 to 1956 he worked as Experimental Officer in what was then known as the Geological Survey of Great Britain and Museum of Practical Geology, in London, where he met his future wife Isobel, a librarian at the Museum. In 1956 he was hired by Imperial Oil, and assigned to the newly established Palynology Laboratory in Calgary, headed by F.L. Staplin (who had trained at the Carter Co. in Tulsa, with W. S. Hoffmeister).Stanley started to document the spore-pollen assemblages of the Cretaceous strata of Western Canada (Saskatchewan and Alberta), working his way down into the Jurassic. Inevitably, he also observed cysts of many new species of dinoflagellates. In the meantime, Staplin had been documenting spore assemblages from the richly oilbearing Devonian, working his way up the column into the Carboniferous. In 1958, I was invited to join that team, and was assigned to do the same for the Permo-Triassic of northern Alberta.

These were the first of some 25 happy years, full of new vistas of the microscopic plant and animal life of various ages in that part of the world, with their dazzling structural and sculptural varieties. Newspecies needed to be described and named, and were compared with those from other parts of the world. The Imperial Oil laboratory in Calgary, one of the early centres where palynology was developed, enjoyed visits from such luminaries as Potonié, Erdtman, Venkatachala and many others.

Stanley’s PhD thesis was based on research conducted in Calgary. His enthusiasm for palynology, his charm and communication skill is attested to by the serendipitous happening that occurred while he was on his way to defend his thesis in London, England, in the summer of 1964. Stanley could talk up a storm on many subjects, and on the train to London struck up a conversation with a fellow traveller. Excited about his career in palynology, he talked about the science, the need to find zone-specific fossils, the practical application in the oil industry and even his thesis. The passenger listened attentively; interrupted Stanley with some pointed questions, and discussed this somewhat unusual subject in great detail. Stanley did not think this was remarkable till … hours later, when he entered the university, he discovered that the man was one of his examiners!

Stanley enjoyed being in the forefront of new developments, and made the most of opportunities provided at his workplace. A glance at the titles of some of his publications (below) shows the breadth of his interests. Not only did he co-author with a number of scientists, he also established contacts with fellow palynologists in far away places. Some of his last papers are among his best.

Art Sweet, a palynologist at the Geological Survey of Canada, commented: “We are reminded of the accomplishments of our colleagues in different ways, but most often when we turn to a valued publication. When word of Stanley’s death came through, I had just had occasion to reach for his extensive account of the Palynology of the Jurassic sediments of Western Canada, and realized once again how important the documentation of whole assemblages are to the application of palynology. His monographic treatment of terrestrial Jurassic microfloras, together with his 1962 analysis of sporepollen assemblages across the Jurassic Cretaceous boundary, are a legacy that will remain important to the biostratigraphic application of miospores well into the future, and serve as a persistent reminder of his pioneering accomplishments in the field of western Canadian Mesozoic palynology.” Stan Stancliffe (Imperial Oil) concurred with that assesment of the Palaeontographica papers: “My copies were heavily used; no regional papers of that type had been published before then (or since, really).”

Stanley would follow his convictions in matters of fairness and faith. He worked hard to establish a pension plan for the ministers of the Anglican church he attended, as he felt that the remuneration of priests was inadequate. With his wife Isobel, he prepared a weekly “music hour” for patients in the Alzheimer ward of one of Calgary’s hospitals. They felt that such patients might have difficulty in communicating, but would respond to music and melodies that rekindled old memories. His spiritual interests eventually involved the legends and stories of Indian Buddhism, a country he visited a couple of times.

In the mid 1980s Stanley and Isobel retired to a custom-designed wooden cottage in the forested area of Arrow Creek, just east of Creston, British Columbia — a lovely place along a wilderness road, where Stanley (ever an avid gardener) carried on a long but good-natured battle with the deer who ate his garden as fast as he could plant things. He loved being close to nature there, had a magnificent library, a small lab space with a fume hood, and even his own properly dedicated chapel. There he continued palynological and nature studies. In his spare time he volunteered at the 7000 ha Creston Valley Wildlife Centre, collecting and cataloguing samples of the local plant life; he was a major donor to this RAMSAR site. Rev. Leslie Lewis wrote that Stanley enriched her life greatly with his tremendous knowledge of church history, patristic theology, geology and botany: “What a combination! He will be severely missed.”

Stanley became increasingly involved in the Anglican Church, where he acted as lay Minister of the Word and Sacrament for a number of years, then became a Deacon, and around 2001 was formally ordained to the Anglican priesthood. Yet, a few years later he moved over to the Roman Catholic church, believing that he might serve as a priest in that church as well, and help realize a coming-together of these two creeds. Stanley died peacefully in February 2004, of prostate cancer, in the Swan Valley Lodge, Creston. He is sadly missed at the town’s nursing homes, where he was an honorary (and very active) chaplain. His wife Isobel remains in Swan Valley Lodge; she may not realize he’s gone, but the rest of us certainly do.

[Incidentally, Wilson Stewart, another paleobotanist living near Creston, died in Kootenay Bay, April 5 2004, at the age of 87.]

Jan Jansonius
Geological Survey of Canada, Calgary
May 3, 2004

With contributions by Rev. Leslie Lewis, Theodora Masran, William Mitchell-Banks, Bernard Owens, Stan Stancliffe, Frank Staplin, Art Sweet.


Selected bibliography of the work of Stanley Pocock

Pocock, S.A.J., 1959. Scales for making direct measurements from photographs. Micropaleontology 5(3):349-350.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1962. Microfloral analysis and age determination of strata at the Jurassic–Cretaceous boundary in the western Canada plains. Palaeontographica, Abt. B, Vol. 111:1-95, pl. 1-15.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1964. Palynology of the Kootenay Formation at its type section. Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geologists 12:500-512.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1967. The Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary in northern Canada. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 5:129-136.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1968. Zonalapollenites Pflug 1953 and related genera. Taxon 17(6):639-641.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1970. Palynology of the Jurassic sediments of western Canada. Part 1. Terrestrial species. Palaeontographica, Abt. B, vol. 130: 12-72, 73-136, pl.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1972. Palynology of the Jurassic sediments of western Canada. Part 2. Marine species. Palaeontographica, Abt. B, vol. 137: 85-153, pl. 22-29.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1976. A preliminary dinoflagellate zonation of the uppermost Jurassic and lower part of the Cretaceous, Canadian Arctic, and possible correlation in the western Canada basin. Geoscience and Man 15:101-114.

Pocock, S.A.J., (1976) 1978. Lowermost Jurassic spore-pollen assemblage from the Canadian Arctic. The Palaeobotanist 25:363-375.

Pocock, S.A.J., 1980. The Aptian-Albian boundary in Canada. Proceedings, 4th International Palynological Conference, Lucknow (1976-77), vol. 2: 419-425, pl. 1-4.

Pocock, S.A.J., and J. Jansonius 1969. Redescription of some fossil gymnospermous pollen (Chasmatosporites, Marsupipollenites, Ovalipolis). Canadian Journal of Botany 47:155-165.

Pocock, S.A.J., and Th. C. Masran 1979. Particulate organic matter distribution in the Pichavaram mangrove of the Cauvery delta. Unpublished technical report.

Pocock, S.A.J., and W.A.S. Sarjeant, 1972. Partitomorphitae, a new subgroup of Triassic and Jurassic acritarchs. Meddelelser fra Dansk Geologisk Forening 21(4):346-357.

Pocock, S.A.J., and Vasanthy George, 1986. EDS analysis of pollen wall surfaces of Vernonia mononis Cl. (Asteraceae) and pollen-soil concentration of elements. Geophytology 16:37-53.

Pocock, S.A.J., and Vasanthy George, 1988. Cornetipollis reticulatus, a new pollen with angiospermid features from Upper Triassic (Carnian) sediments ofArizona (USA) with notes on Equisetosporites. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 55(4):337-356.

Pocock, S.A.J., Vasanthy George, and B. S. Venkatachala, 1988. Introduction to the study of Particulate Organic Materials and ecological perspectives. Journal of Palynology 23-24:167-188.

Pocock, S.A.J., Vasanthy George, and B. S. Venkatachala, 1990. Pollen of Circumpolles – an enigma or morphotrends showing evolutionary adaptation? Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 65:179-193.


Note: This article appeared in CAP Newsletter 27(1):4-6, 2004.