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The Loeblichs
Dr. Helen Tappan Loeblich and Dr. Alfred Loeblich

Helen Tappan and Alfred R. Loeblich, Jr.
The distinguished parents of our friends Karen (Elizabeth), ’62; Judy, '65 and Daryl Loeblich, ’67.

The Drs Loeblich were not only world renowned scientists and teachers, but pioneers in their fields as well.

Helen Tappan Loeblich, professor emerita, and a major figure in the paleontology community, passed away August 18, 2004. Born on October 12, 1917, in Norman, Oklahoma, Helen went on to become an international leader in the field of micropaleontology. She earned her BS degree in 1937 at the University of Oklahoma, Phi Beta Kappa, and received the Sigma Gamma Epsilon Scholarship Award for Outstanding Senior in Geology—an MS degree followed in 1939. It was during this time at the University of Oklahoma that she met her soul-mate, Al Loeblich, Jr., whom she married on June 18, 1939, thus beginning a life-long scientific collaboration that resulted in major advancements in paleontology. They transferred to the University of Chicago where Helen received her PhD in Geology in 1942—both her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were on Texas and Oklahoma mid-Cretaceous foraminifera.

When Al received orders to report for military duty in 1942, Helen assumed all of his teaching responsibilities, becoming the first woman faculty member of Tulane’s College of Arts and Sciences. At the end of World War II, Al obtained a position as curator of invertebrate paleontology and paleobotany at the United States National Museum in Washington, DC. Helen resumed her earlier work with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), this time with the Navy Oil Project in the Naval Petroleum Reserve of the Alaskan North Slope.

In 1953 the Smithsonian Institution sent Al to Europe to collect foraminiferal samples and to study collections in the major European museums as background for Helen and Al’s work on the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology volume on foraminifera. Helen was forced to take a leave of absence from the USGS, because of their policy of not allowing their personnel to work outside the United States. She obtained a Guggenheim Fellowship and—together with their four children and Al’s mother—they spent a year traveling throughout Europe, collecting more than two tons of rocks and examining many historical collections of foraminifera. Helen illustrated with a camera lucida the type specimens they studied. From 1954 to 1956 Helen was an honorary research associate of the Smithsonian Institution and in 1957, the Loeblich-Tappan family moved to California where Al headed a micropaleontological program at Chevron Oil Field Research Company.

Helen continued to work part-time for the USGS and in 1958 began teaching at UCLA, becoming a full-time faculty member in 1966, full professor in 1968, and vice chairman of Geology from 1973 to 1975. During her years at UCLA, Helen advised, mentored, and inspired numerous students, many of whom went on to achieve prominence in geology, paleontology, micropaleontology, and palynology. Her graduate students specialized in Cretaceous and Cenozoic foraminifera, Miocene diatoms, Cretaceous coccoliths, Cretaceous and Tertiary dinoflagellates, chrysophyte cysts, and radiolaria, as well as Paleozoic acritarchs and prasinophytes. Such a wide range of topics is testimony to Helen’s breadth and knowledge in the fields of micropaleontology and palynology.

During her lifetime Helen served on many editorial and society boards as well as various committees. She received numerous awards, including the 1982 Woman of Science Award from the UCLA Medical Center Auxiliary, the Paleontological Society Medal in 1983, the Raymond C. Moore Medal for “Excellence in Paleontology” in 1984, and the 1987 Woman of the Year Award in Natural Science from the Palm Springs Desert Museum, to name a few.

Helen will probably be best remembered for her landmark papers and books as well as her prodigious scientific output, both as sole author and in collaboration with Al. Helen published 272 scientific papers and books, mostly with Al. A few of the most notable are: Their 1957 paper “Correlation of the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain Paleocene and lower Eocene formations by means of planktonic Foraminifera” won Best Paper Award in the Journal of Paleontology. The 2-volume Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part C. Protista 2. Sarcodina, chiefly ‘Thecamoebians’ and Foraminiferida (1964) is a landmark publication in which they classified foraminiferida on the basis of external wall characteristics. Their 2-volume book Foraminfiera Genera and Their Classification (1987) is their magnum opus in foraminiferal research. In it, they revised foraminiferal classification by considering the internal wall structure and studying the type-species of almost all valid genera in the literature. This book received the 1988 Award of the Association of American Publishers for the best professional and scholarly book in the field of Geography and Earth Science. Helen was also very proud of her book The Paleobiology of Plant Protists (1980)—it was voted the book publisher’s best non-fiction book for that year.

Helen was an achiever of the highest order; her research and publications were rigorous, scientifically grounded, and always first-rate. She was a superb writer and editor and improved the manuscripts of numerous students and researchers. She demanded excellence, not only from herself, but also from her students and colleagues. She instilled in her students a strong work ethic and commitment to be the best they could. In spite of her many scientific accomplishments and honors, Helen was extremely generous with her time and expertise, and always had time for her students. Apart from her scientific achievements, she was an excellent artist, illustrating all of her papers and designing and creating printing blocks for their Christmas cards, which showed their current research specimens adorned in a holiday theme. In addition, she designed bookplates for their extensive library and designed the 50th Anniversary Stamp of the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists (now the Society for Sedimentary Geology).

[Reed Wicander] at
www.ess.ucla.edu/ faculty/14HTappan.jpg

The 1982 Joseph A. Cushman Award

Helen Tappan and Alfred R. Loeblich, Jr.

The 1982 Joseph A. Cushman Awards for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research were presented to HELEN TAPPAN (LOEBLICH) and ALFRED R. LOEBLICH, JR., in recognition of their separate and joint contributions, especially in the area of foraminiferal systematics. The Loeblichs have distinguished, and inextricably intertwined, careers in micropaleontology which started when they were students together in college. Although they are perhaps most recognizable as a team, both Helen and Al have made significant contributions as individuals; the Joseph A. Cushman Award is given to each of them separately. Helen Tappan and Alfred R. Loeblich, Jr. stand as two of the foremost micropaleontologists of this century.
Al Loeblich was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1914, the son of European immigrants. Al, with great intelligence, a demanding sense of perfection and a strong desire to succeed, was drawn to higher education, eventually enrolling in geology at the University of Oklahoma. Helen Tappan, however, came from a long line of early Americans and was born in Norman, Oklahoma. Her father, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Oklahoma, had always encouraged scholarly activity, so that Helen, with her natural charm and intelligence, also appreciated higher education and scholarship. When Helen and Al finally met in a sophmore chemistry class at the University of Oklahoma, they were immediately attracted to one another by these attributes, which have continued to form the basis of their dynamic synergism. Soon after Helen and Al both graduated with B.S. (Phi Beta Kappa) and M.S. degrees, they were married in the garden of her parents' home in Norman, Oklahoma on June 18, 1939.
Helen and Al enrolled for doctoral studies in geology at the University of Chicago with Carey Croneis as their major professor. Al became interested in Paleozoic bryozoans and Helen studied foraminifera, an interest she developed while at Oklahoma. Upon completing their residency requirements at Chicago, Al accepted a position as Instructor at Tulane University in New Orleans. After the outbreak of World War II, Al, a reserve officer, entered the Army as a 1st Lieutenant and served in the Pacific theater. During the war, as might be expected, Al collected microfossil samples from remote Pacific islands, shipping them home in ammunition cans to be used in later studies. In the meantime, Helen took over Al's teaching duties at Tulane until 1943, when she joined the U.S. Geological Survey in California. Al came home a Captain, and accepted a position with the U.S. National Museum as Associate Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, while Helen remained with the U.S.G.S. in Washington, D.C. When the Museum acquired the world-famous Joseph Cushman foraminiferal collection, Al joined Helen in full-time study of foraminifera. The collection was transferred from Sharon, Massachusetts and curated by Al. In 1957, Al left the National Museum for Southern California and a position with Chevron Research Company. Helen came too, and became a lecturer, and later a Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Al has since retired from Chevron, this time joining Helen at UCLA as an Adjunct Professor of Geology. They now live near the campus, going every day to continue their work in the offices and laboratories they share.
Their contributions began early-Helen's in 1937 and Al's in 1940. They have now published hundreds of papers, a number of books, many reviews, and they continue to produce significant contributions. Their early work (other than the usual new species occurrence and technique papers, as well as three contributions on Bryozoa by Al) focussed on description of new faunas and taxa of foraminifera, particularly from the Mesozoic. Later, Al and Helen were invited to participate in the preparation of a proposed volume on foraminifera for the "Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology." Al insisted that he and Helen do the entire job, and they began work by carefully documenting all previously described genera, examining type specimens throughout North America and Europe, studying material obtained from around the world, and devising a radical and controversial new classification of the group. This work resulted naturally in an outpouring of nomenclatorial and systematic papers. In 1964, their "Treatise" volume was published, with Al and Helen making additions and corrections until the very last possible moment. The "Treatise" revolutionized the study of foraminifera by emphasizing the biology, test ultrastructure, ecology, stratigraphic distribution, and, especially, the systematics of the group. The "Treatise" serves as the cornerstone of modern foraminiferal studies, and has been and remains the single most-cited reference in foraminiferology. Also during this period, Al and Helen recognized the potential of planktonic foraminifera in biostratigraphy and they organized a special volume on the topic. This work, involving other authors, is known by specialists simply as Bulletin 215 (of the U.S. National Museum), for it provided the impetus for the the study of these forms, which have since become the most important group used in the biostratigraphy and paleoceanography of the last 150 million years of geologic time.
Having honed their nomenclatorial skills in preparing the "Treatise," The Loeblichs turned their attention to other groups of microfossils-silicoflagellates, tintinnids, calcareous nannofossils, dinoflagellates and acritarchs, and chitinozoans. They prepared detailed compendia or systematic revisions of these groups that are in common use today. Even more importantly, these careful encyclopedic treatments called attention to these groups and made their sustained study and use possible. Since the Loeblichs' treatments, each of these groups has become important in general micropaleontologic applications. Some of these compendia were done in collaboration with their son and daughter-in-law, and so the Loeblich micropaleontologic dynasty began to grow.
As Helen began teaching, she was confronted by broader academic questions about micropaleontology. She began to wonder about the evolutionary implications of the microfossil record and its relationship to earth history. Although Al encouraged her and supplied much background work, he commonly let Helen take credit for her ideas in singly-authored papers. Al began to devote much effort to organic microfossils, describing new taxa and biotas, and unravelling nomenclatorial problems-with Helen's help and support, of course. Seemingly, Al liked to stick with the objective facts that could be seen on specimens, or found in the literature, while Helen did not mind speculating a bit more, an ideal combination. Much of the Loeblichs' work, as well as the rest of the world literature on plant protists, both systematic and theoretical, was synthesized by Helen in her monumental 1028 page book "The Paleobiology of Plant Protists" published in 1980 by W. H. Freeman and Co.
Although the Loeblichs seem to have left foraminifera in the last few years, they keep world-wide research on the group under close scrutiny and, from time to time, they have published their views on systematic rearrangements. Indeed, a revised "Treatise' is underway, now that the number of described genera has more than doubled since the original 900-page, two-volume "Treatise".
Al and Helen have contributed much to the professions of geology, micropaleontology, protozoology and botany through their varied society and government activities. They have served in editorial capacities for a number of professional journals, served on committees of societies, organized symposia, and advised panels for JOIDES (deep-sea drilling program). Indeed, this very Cushman Foundation owes its existence in large part to the Loeblichs as incorporators and editors of its first journal.
As important and lasting as these contributions are, the Loeblichs consider their most outstanding achievement to be the large number of formal and informal students they trained. We were all lucky to have two major professors in Al and Helen, even when Al had no formal relationship with UCLA. Both of them worked hard to develop in their students the same high standards as they showed themselves throughout their careers, and to question the tried and true, even when it was theirs. We never received criticism for new or outrageous scientific views, but errors of fact or literature were quickly corrected. Over twenty students have completed higher degrees with Helen (and Al!) at UCLA. Together these students have contributed well over a 1,000 papers themselves on all microfossil groups (and some other topics), and they occupy prominent positions as paleontologists, geologists and administrators in academia, government and industry (U.S. and foreign). In turn, these Loeblich students have trained, and are training, their own students who are entering similar positions. The Loeblichs have already planted the seeds and watched the initial branching of a micropaleontologic family tree that has grown rapidly into the mainstream of modern paleontology.
Thus, Helen and Al have accomplished more in their two careers to date than many a classroom full of paleontologists might ever do. Their success can be attributed to the ways in which their two personalities and ambitions have complemented one another. Helen, the quiet, gentle, caring person, joined with Al, the critical, ambitious perfectionist, to form a dynamic team unrivaled in paleontology, or indeed probably most other fields. The Board of Directors of the Cushman Foundation is honored to present them with the 1982 Joseph A. Cushman Awards, and at the same time, to welcome them as Honorary Directors.
JERE H. LIPPS, University of California, Davis ROBERT G. DOUGLAS, University of Southern California WILLIAM V. SLITER, U. S. Geological Survey
from: Journal of Foraminiferal Research, July 1983, v. 13, no. 3
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