Clyde Wahrhaftig
and Allan Cox —
Geologists and

Clyde Wahrhaftig and Allan Cox were geologists and the recipients of many rewards and honors throughout their careers.

Allan Cox

Allan was six years younger than Clyde.

Allan Cox had originally majored in chemistry at UC-Berkeley, but after a single quarter, he left school and spent three years with the merchant marine.

He began his career in geophysics at the age of 24 in 1950 when he got a summer job as a field assistant to Clyde Wahrhaftig. They studied glaciation in the Alaska Range that summer.

After two years in the army, Allan then returned to Berkeley, but now switched his major to geology, receiving his Ph.D. in 1959. During his studies, he accompanied Clyde on more expeditions to Alaska. There they discussed not only science but also the works of Proust and the music of Bach.

Allan Cox worked at the US Geological Survey until 1967 where he made many important contributions to the study of the history of the earth's crust through his investigations of rock magnetism and the polarity reversals of the magnetic field that have occurred throughout the eons.

In 1967 he became a professor at Stanford University and in 1979 became Dean of the School of Earth Sciences.

He lived by himself in a small house in the hills above the Stanford campus and was known for his warmth and understanding and his ability to inspire others to achieve their best.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1974) and served as President of the American Geophysical Union (1978-1980). He was the author of more than 100 scientific papers and of two well-known books on plate tectonics.

But his life came to a tragic end. In the early morning of January 27, 1987, Allan Cox died in a bicycle "accident," colliding with a large redwood tree after a steep descent on a stretch of mountain road.

More than a thousand people crowded into the Stanford chapel for the memorial service of this teacher and advisor who was widely loved by members of the Stanford community.

His death, however, had not been an "accident." It was instead a carefully planned suicide. Allan Cox had become the subject of a police investigation because of alleged illicit sexual behavior.

Stanford University established the "Allan Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research" in his honor, and the medal continues to be awarded annually.

Clyde Wahrhaftig

Clyde Wahrhaftig worked for the US Geological Service. He was a senior geologist there between 1943-67 and 1982-94, and was Professor of Geomorphology at U.C. Berkeley between 1967-82.

He authored Streetcar to Subduction, a guide to San Francisco geology and plate tectonics using public transportation. His collaborators knew him as a loyal friend and as a man of integrity.

He performed important studies and expanded our understanding of the geology of the Sierra Nevada, the California Coastal Ranges, and the glaciers of Alaska through the many papers, articles, and books which he wrote.

A homosexual all his life, he had a long relationship with Allan Cox.

When he was awarded the Distinguished Career Award by the Geological Society of America in 1989 (after Allan’s death), he used the opportunity to "come out" as a gay man. He urged his fellow scientists to accept homosexual students without bias and to encourage them to enter the field of geoscience.

He died peacefully in his sleep at age 74, April 8, 1994, in San Francisco.

After his death, a Memorial Symposium on the glacial history of the Sierra Nevada was held in his honor and attendees at professional meetings during the following year rose and stood in silence in memory of his passing. An Eagle Scout has erected a Memorial Bench to Clyde Wahrhaftig which now stands beside the Bay Area Ridge Trail overlooking San Francisco Bay. (See:

Honors Awarded to Allan Cox

1969 John Adam Fleming Medal of the American Geophysical Union

1969 Election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences

1971 Vetlesen Prize from Columbia University

1974 Election to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1975 Day Medal of the Geological Society of America

1978 Elected President of the American Geophysical Union

1984 Day Award of the National Academy of Sciences

Honors Awarded to Clyde Wahrhaftig

1967 Kirk Bryan Award for excellence in research in Quaternary geology or geomorphology, presented by the Geological Society of America

1989 Distinguished Career Award in recognition of Quaternary geologists and geomorphologists who have demonstrated excellence in their contributions to science, presented by the Quaternary Geology & Geomorphology Division of the Geological Society of America

Books by Allan Cox

Cox, Allan, 1973, Plate Tectonics and Geomagnetic Reversals, W.H. Freeman & Co., 702 p.

Cox, Allan, and Hart, Brian R., 1986, Plate Tectonics : How It Works, Blackwell Science Inc., 400 p.

Books by Clyde Wahrhaftig

Verhoogen, John; Turner, F. J.; Weiss, L.E.; Wahrhaftig, Clyde and Fyfe, W. S., 1970, The Earth: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 748 p.

Wahrhaftig, Clyde, 1984, A Streetcar to Subduction and Other Plate Tectonic Trips by Public Transport in San Francisco, AGU Special Publication, 76 p.

Wahrhaftig, Clyde and Murchey,Benita, 1987, "Marin Headlands, California, 100 Million Year Record of Seafloor Transport and Accretion" in Hill, M.L., Cordilleran Section of the Geological Society of America, Centennial Field Guide, Volume 1.

Wahrhaftig, Clyde, and D. Sloan, eds., 1989. Geology of San Francisco and Vicinity, Field Trip Guidebook T105, American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C., 69p.

Memorials to Allan Cox

Allan Cox Lecturer

Invited Lecturer, American Geophysical Union

Allan V. Cox Grants

Grants for student research in geophysics Geological Society of America, Geophysics Division

Allan V. Cox
Student Research Award

Given annually to recognize the outstanding student research grant project which involves the application of the principals and techniques of geophysics

Allan Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research

Awarded annually to a Stanford University faculty member who has established a record of excellence in directing undergraduate research

Memorials to Clyde Wahrhaftig

The Glacial History of the Sierra Nevada: A Symposium in Memorial to Clyde Wahrhaftig, Univ. Calif. White Mtn. Res. Station, Sept 1995.

Clyde Wahrhaftig Memorial Bench beside the Bay Area Ridge Trail overlooking San Francisco Bay. (An Eagle Scout Project, Berkeley Boy Scout Troop 24.)


National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, Queer Scientists of Historical Note,

National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, "Allan V. Cox, December 17, 1926—January 27, 1987," by Konrad B. Krauskopf,