Commentary

‘Bootstrap’ a Good Read

Gene Shinn, signing copies of his book at the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
Gene Shinn, signing copies of his book at the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Pittsburgh.

Imagine this: Your conversational partner is a wonderfully likable raconteur, someone who has spent a lifetime doing brilliant things with interesting people – and he’s a geologist, too!

That’s what you have within the covers of “Bootstrap Geologist,” an absolutely delightful read of the life encounters of the clown prince of marine geology, longtime AAPG member Gene Shinn.

His gentle wit shines from every page, as he regales us with non-stop stories of weird and wonderful people that surrounded him as he careened through the Caribbean and the broader world for 50 exciting years.

Gene started his professional career as a lab assistant with Shell’s pioneering Coral Gables Carbonate Research group, surrounded over the years by giants of carbonate geology; Bob Ginsburg, Mike Lloyd, Bob Dunham, Pete Rose, Duff Kerr, Jim Rogers, Ron Perkins, Mahlon Ball, Paul Enos … the list goes on and on.

It is interesting to realize that each of these geologists was, at the outset, far better trained and more knowledgeable than Gene. Gene has energy, an open mind and an extraordinary level of curiosity. Gene had to learn by close observation. Those powers of observation, driven by fervent curiosity, have provided a host of unique and original insights into fields as diverse as origin and significance of beach holes, growth rate of corals, marine cementation and ecologic effects of intercontinental dust.

Gene Shinn has remembered what many of us have forgotten; truth is not found by citing authority, but by checking facts and making independent observations.

In reading this book, it is especially interesting to follow Gene’s scientific growth and intellectual development, from boatman and lab assistant to the gentle guru of marine geology.

The wonderful humor that colors Gene’s stories should not mask the extraordinary scientific achievements of this modest man, with hundreds of formal and informal scientific publications, culminating in the award of SEPM’s prestigious Twenhofel Medal in 2009, given for a lifetime of achievement.

But it is the stories that give this marvelous book its character and special interest. Take the Atlantis incident:

“We donned our dive gear while most of the others did the opposite; clothes it seems hinder the force field true believers feel in this ancient spot. Soon we were being filmed by two naked women and observed by naked swimmers.”

A story, a joke, an adventure and wise insight inhabit every page.

Read the book, and become a friend of a most remarkable man.


AAPG Honorary member Marlan W. Downey, a past AAPG president and Sidney Power medalist, is a Dallas-based consultant, Bartell Professor of Geoscience at the University of Oklahoma, chief scientist at the Sarkeys Energy Center and chairman of Roxanna Oil.

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