Amos Salvador, professor emeritus in the Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, long known for his contributions to stratigraphic classification, geology and resources of the Gulf of Mexico Basin—and most recently for a book on the future of energy resources—died December 2, 2007, of complications from pneumonia while battling a malignant brain tumor. He was 84.
Born in Madrid, Spain, in 1923, Salvador spent part of his youth in Havana, Cuba, where his father was stationed at the Spanish Embassy during the period of the Second Spanish Republic. When the Republic fell to Franco’s Nationalists, Salvador’s family moved to Venezuela, where he earned his B.S. in geology from the Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1945.
Salvador was first employed by Mene Grande Oil Company, a Venezuelan subsidiary of Gulf Oil, where he had the good fortune to be guided and advised by Hollis D. Hedberg, the famous Gulf Oil exploration geologist who later taught at Princeton University. Hedberg advised him to earn his Ph.D. from Stanford University, which he completed in 1950. He married Lynn Sherwood, who also graduated that year from Stanford.
From 1950-55, Salvador worked for Gulf Oil out of New York as a regional and surface geologist and performed extensive fieldwork in North Africa, Europe, and South America. He left to work for Creole Petroleum Corporation, an affiliate of Esso (now ExxonMobil) in Venezuela, and from then until 1980 worked for several Esso affiliates before retiring after nine years as chief geologist of Exxon Company, U.S.A.
Salvador and his wife moved to Austin in 1980 when he accepted a faculty position as the first Alexander Deussen Professor of Energy Resources in the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin. The Geology Foundation recognized Salvador’s dedication to teaching by awarding him the Houston Oil & Minerals Corporation Faculty Excellence Award in 1988. In 1990, he was appointed the Morgan J. Davis Professor of Petroleum Geology. He retired from formal teaching in 1993.
Amos Salvador was a true gentleman with a remarkable 35-year career as a geologist in the petroleum industry that was capped by 27 years as a distinguished member of academia. His positive outlook on science and people inspired all who knew him. He mentored many students, with a special fondness for those from Latin America who visited his office regularly. He provided wise counsel that helped them achieve success in the profession and life in general. He taught the principles of stratigraphy to every undergraduate major for more than a decade. At the graduate level, he supervised the completion of nine masters theses and four dissertations. As many of his graduate students were international, he devoted immense time helping them improve their mastery of the English language.
Before becoming a faculty member, Salvador had a record of publication and professional service. He published several articles and three guidebooks concerning the geology of Venezuela that focused on regional stratigraphy and petroleum geology. Rodulfo Prieto, a 1987 Ph.D. graduate from UT Austin, states that “highly creative and innovative thinking” by Amos Salvador in the late 1950s about the Eocene geology of Venezuela was rediscovered in the 1980s. This led to the discovery of the El Furrial Field in 1986, the largest oil discovery in Latin America in the previous 25 years.
Salvador was a member of the International Union of Geological Sciences Commission on Stratigraphy from 1952 until his death. He was elected and re-elected chairman of the Subcommission on Stratigraphic Classification serving from 1976 to 1992. His profound interest in stratigraphy dates back to his experience as a young surface geologist who had to ride mules to access remote parts of Venezuela.
After becoming a faculty member, Salvador embraced a wide range of academic endeavors. He was a distinguished lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists during 1980-81. That lecture tour was the topic of what became a highly cited 1987 paper: “Late Triassic–Jurassic paleogeography and origin of the Gulf of Mexico Basin.” He served six years as an associate editor of the Geological Society of America Bulletin and guided numerous papers to publication. A remarkable accomplishment was spearheading the generation of a volume for the Geological Society of America’s Decade of North American Geology Series (DNAG). Salvador not only edited the 568-page, 18-chapter volume on “The Gulf of Mexico Basin,” but he also wrote two of the chapters and co-authored two others. This 1991 volume was one of the very best sellers of the 16-part DNAG series. Not only was the geologic coverage about the Gulf all-encompassing, but it was noted for the uniformly-high quality illustrations and six large wall maps with cross-sections that were published in a separate slipcase. Salvador was pleased that he was able to raise funding from industry to enable redrafting where needed and to assure publication of the color maps. This work is considered a benchmark contribution from which all other works on the Gulf of Mexico basin will forever build. Salvador was always deeply grateful and appreciative of the excellent skills of the staff that helped him produce this publication and other documents over the years.
After retiring from teaching at UT in 1993, Salvador continued to work on matters concerning stratigraphic classification and began intensive research on estimating consumption and possible sources of energy in the 21st century. He strongly believed that stratigraphy is a fundamental element of geology and that growing neglect of the principles disturbed him. He also had an abiding concern for the growing demand on Earth resources by its expanding population.
Salvador’s work in stratigraphy culminated in his editorship of the widely-used Second Edition of the International Stratigraphic Guide that was published in 1994. He co-authored an abridged version that was distributed in 1999. A reviewer of the Guide described it as a “fundamental text” for all engaged in the description, mapping, and analysis of strata.
On the matter of stratigraphy, Salvador made it a mission to protest efforts to eliminate the Tertiary and Quaternary periods from official classifications of the geologic time scale. The Tertiary and Quaternary have long been accepted as periods within the present geologic era of the Cenozoic. In 2000, the International Commission on Stratigraphy published a time scale in which the term Tertiary was eliminated. In 2004, they eliminated the term Quaternary as well. For Salvador this was such folly that he was provoked to write a paper published in 2006 titled, “The Tertiary and the Quaternary are here to stay” in which he clearly presented the historical and logical reasons to maintain these subdivisions of geologic time.
Upon retirement from teaching, Salvador stated he would now have time to take on a passion rooted in his professional interests, a common topic of his graduate courses, and a reflection of his concern for mankind. His research culminated in the 2005 book, Energy: A Historical Perspective and 21st Century Forecast. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) honored this publication with the 2006 Robert H. Dott Sr. Memorial Award. This award is presented to the author or editor of the best special publication that was published by AAPG in the previous year. Salvador maintained not just academic rigor until the day in early August when the symptoms of brain cancer first appeared, but extraordinary physical condition as well. He retained the physique of his soccer playing days in college. Well into his seventies, he jogged several miles most evenings; an exercise regime he continued as long walks around the hills of northwest Austin. He was a geologist who remained capable of extended fieldwork until the very end.
Amos Salvador, a gentleman scientist, is survived by Lynn—his dear wife of 57 years; his children, Phillip, Michael, and Rosario; and his grandchildren, Solomon, Leo, Claire, Lucas, and Carla. He will be missed by a worldwide legion of relatives and friends.
William Powers Jr., President
The University of Texas at Austin
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors W. L. Fisher (chair), Mark Cloos, and William R. Muehlberger.
Salvador, A, and Hotz, E. E., 1963, Petroleum occurrence in the Cretaceous of Venezuela: Proceedings of the VI World Petroleum Congress, Section 1, p. 115-140.
Salvador, A., 1964, Proposed simplification of the stratigraphic nomenclature in eastern Venezuela: Bol. Informativo, Assoc. Ven. Geol. Min. y Petroleo, v. 7, no. 6, p. 153-202.
Salvador, A., and Stainforth, R. M., 1965, Clues in Venezuela to the Geology of Trinidad and vice versa: Proceeding of the 4th Caribbean Geological Congress, p. 31-40.
Salvador, A., 1975, Venezuela: in Encyclopedia of World Regional Geology, Fairbridge, R.W., ed., Part 1: Western Hemisphere, p. 649-654.
Salvador, A., and Buffler, R. T., 1982, The Gulf of Mexico Basin: in Perspectives in Regional Geological Synthesis: Geological Society of America, Decade of North American Geology (DNAG) Special Publication No. 1, p. 157-162.
Salvador, A., 1985, Chronostratigraphic and geochronometric scales in COSUNA Stratigraphic Correlation Charts of the United States: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 69, p. 181-189.
Salvador, A., 1987, Late Triassic-Jurassic paleogeography and origin of Gulf of Mexico Basin: American Association of Petroleum Geologist Bulletin, v. 71, p. 419-451.
Salvador, A., 1991, editor, The Gulf of Mexico Basin: The Geology of North America, Volume J., 568 pp.
Salvador, A., 1991, Triassic-Jurassic: in, Salvador, A., ed., The Gulf of Mexico Basin: The Geology of North America, Volume J., p. 131-180.
Salvador, A., 1991, Origin and development of the Gulf of Mexico basin: in, Salvador, A., ed., The Gulf of Mexico Basin: The Geology of North America, Volume J., p. 389-444.
Salvador, A., 1994, editor, International Stratigraphic Guide: A Guide to Stratigraphic Classification, Terminology and Procedure, 2nd Edition: International Union of Geological Sciences. International Subcommission on Stratigraphic Classification. Trondheim, Norway: International Union of Geological Sciences; Boulder, Colorado Geological Society of America.
Salvador, A., 2005, Energy: A Historical Perspective and 21st Century Forecast: The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Studies in Geology, No. 53, 208 pp.
Salvador, A., 2006, The Tertiary and the Quaternary are here to stay: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 90, p. 21-30.