Tucson was one footstep in Gould's giant journey

By Cheryl Fogle

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Former Antarctic explorer and UA geosciences professor Laurence "Larry" McKinley Gould died Wednesday. He was 98.

The University of Arizona geoscience department building, Gould-Simpson, bears his name and another professor's.

Gould was the science officer and second in command of the 1929 South Pole expedition when Richard Byrd became the first man to fly an airplane over the pole.

Gould never reached the pole; instead, he led five men on a two-and-a-half-month, 1,535-mile dog sled journey across Antarctica.

His team left food and emergency supplies in case Byrd had to make a crash landing on the ice. Gould also conducted geological explorations, collecting samples from exposed bedrock.

He found sandstone deposits in Antarctica similar to those in Africa, South America and India. This discovery helped prove that Antarctica had once been linked to these continents.

Gould used his findings to develop a theory of plate tectonics, which states that the Earth's crust consists of several plates that drift apart as new crust forms.

"The plates of the Earth's crust fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and Larry discovered an important piece," said Paul Fitzgerald, geoscience researcher. "Larry made this discovery because he was the first U.S. geologist in Antarctica and he had an open mind," he added.

In 1957, Gould took part in research efforts in Antarctica as part of the International Geophysics Year. Later, he helped negotiate the Antarctic treaty which established scientific stations belonging to several countries and banned mineral exploration of the continent.

"Larry was a fascinating man because he had three careers: explorer, college president and professor," said Peter Kresan, senior lecturer in geosciences.

Gould served as president of Carlton College, a small liberal arts school in Northfield, Minn. In 1963, he retired from that position and moved to the UA, where he taught geosciences courses ranging from introductory level classes to graduate seminars in glaciology. He retired from the depatment in 1978.

George Gaylord Simpson, the other namesake of the Gould-Simpson building, died over 10 years before the building was dedicated in 1986. Simpson was a vertebrate paleontologist who studied fossils to determine the evolution of mammals. He modernized evolutionary theory by including the fossil record, hardly known in Darwin's time.

Simpson was curator of the American National History Museum in New York and taught at Harvard University before coming to Tucson. He and Gould were both members of the Explorers Club in New York and knew of each other's work.

"They had common interests and they became friends when they taught at the U of A," said Everett Lindsay, geosciences professor.

"Larry's death marks the end of an era," Fitzgerald said. "Now a geologist can fly to Antarctica once or twice a year, but when Larry went there it was an adventure."

Memorial services were held for Gould Saturday at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church.

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