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Virgil E. Barnes, Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences, former Associate Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, and one of the world's leading experts on the geological phenomena of tektites, died in Austin, Texas, on January 28, 1998. He was at the University of Texas at Austin for 63 years, and was professionally active until the time of his death.

Born June 11, 1903, in Chehalis, Washington, Barnes earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology at Washington State College (now Washington State University) and his Ph.D. in geology at the University of Wisconsin in 1930. Immediately after finishing his doctorate, he worked for the American Petroleum Institute in Austin and later for the U.S. Geological Survey in Amarillo, Texas. He joined the University's Bureau of Economic Geology in 1935.

Dr. Barnes's long record of geologic research covered many areas: economic geology, mineralogy, petrology, geophysics, and stratigraphy. He authored one of the first and formative works in paleoecology. Much of his activity as a University researcher involved geologic mapping and, as a mapper, he excelled. More than 100 geologic maps were made and published by Barnes, and a considerable number remain to be published. He put together the monumental Geologic Atlas of Texas-38 sheets in all (each 1:250,000 1_x 2_ in size), which took a quarter of a century to compile. He later combined the Atlas sheets into a four-sheet wall map of the Geology of Texas, a map that is as attractive as it is scientifically accurate.

It was, however, black glassy objects known as tektites that were the subject of his deepest scientific interest and research. Ford Burkhart, in writing Dr. Barnes's obituary in the New York Times, recognized him as the world's premier scholar of tektites. These first came to Barnes's attention in 1936 and were originally thought to be meteorites. He quickly came to the conclusion that tektites were terrestrial in origin and associated with impacts. His 1940 University publication on North American Tektites became a basic reference during the Space Age and is now considered a classic work. Investigations during the great surge in tektite research in the sixties verified the conclusion earlier reached by Dr. Barnes.

Professor Barnes twice traveled around the world with grants from the National Science Foundation to visit all known tektite sites and a number of impact craters. His long and careful research on tektites won him the coveted Barringer Medal, which he received from the Meteoritical Society in Vienna.

In addition to his tektite research, Dr. Barnes also collected a new lithium aluminum silicate mineral discovered in Peruvian Macusanite glass. In 1968, this new mineral was named "Virgilite" in his honor.

Virgil Barnes was a fellow of the Meteoritical Society and was also active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, and the Mineralogical Society of America. In 1988, he was named Distinguished Texas Scientist by the Texas Academy of Science. In 1993, he received the Public Service Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Dr. Barnes was a long-time active participant in the quadrennial International Geological Congresses, representing the Department of Geological Sciences and the Bureau of Economic Geology in London in 1948, in Algiers in 1952, in Mexico City in 1956, in Copenhagen in 1960, in New Delhi in 1964, in Prague in 1968, in Montreal in 1972, in Sydney in 1976, and in Paris in 1980.

Dr. Barnes's many decades of field geology, in Texas and around the globe, were never stopped by the onset of an early, protracted and severe case of painful ankylosing spondylitis, which left many of his vertebrae fused. Even with this condition, he was notorious for out-walking other geologists when he led field trips.

Virgil Barnes was the author or coauthor of nearly 300 books, articles, maps, and abstracts in his long scientific career. One of his more recent official duties was to write his memoirs, On Solid Ground: Memoirs of a Texas Geologist, published in 1995 by the Bureau of Economic Geology.

Virgil Barnes was predeceased in 1994 by his wife of 62 years, Mildred Louise Barnes (nee Adlof), a frequent traveling companion and coauthor. He is survived by his three children, Virgil E. Barnes, II, Ph.D., of West Lafayette, Indiana, Louise Barnes, Ph.D., of Nashville, Tennessee, and Elizabeth Barnes Thompson, Ph.D., of New York City, and six grandchildren, Virgil E. Barnes, III, Christopher Barnes, Jeffrey Barnes, Daniel Barnes, David Barnes-Seeman, and Victoria Thompson.


Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin


John R. Durbin, Secretary
The General Faculty

This Memorial Resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors William L. Fisher (Chair), Ernest L. Lundelius, and William R. Muehlberger.