Dallas L. Peck, of Reston, Va., Director from 1981-1993 of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the worldâ€™s largest natural science research institution, died August 21, 2005 as a result of complications from a previous open heart surgery.
Peckâ€™s entire 53-year professional career was with the USGS, a testament to his devotion to the science of geology and his dedication to the integrity and reputation of the Survey. Peck earned his bachelorâ€™s (with honors) and masterâ€™s degrees in geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1951 and 1953 and his doctorate in geology from Harvard in 1960. Peck began working with the USGS in 1951 as a geologic field assistant and rose through the ranks to become the Nationâ€™s senior earth scientist in 1981.
Peck, a volcanologist, spent much of his early career studying the volcanoes and volcanic rocks of Hawaii and the Western United States. Much of his career focused on geothermal and geochemical studies at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and studies of granitic rocks in the Sierra Nevada of California. His professional reach and impact included the U.S. Space Program in training astronauts and staffing the science mission control rooms for Apollo 16 and 17.
â€œDallas Peck distinguished himself as a scientist and leader. In the tradition of directors that spent many years in the field during their careers, he brought a strong commitment to USGS science excellence to his term as Director,â€ said former USGS Director Chip Groat.
Within the USGS, Peck served as Assistant Chief Geologist then as Chief Geologist for four years. In 1981, Peck was highly recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for the position as USGS Director. Following Senate action, Peck became the 11th director of the USGS. Under Peckâ€™s leadership, the USGS improved and expanded its national and international work on mineral resources; global change; water quality; and natural hazards, including the risk assessment and management of earthquakes, landslides, land subsidence, and volcanic eruptions.
Following his term as Director, he returned to the Geologic Division of USGS in 1993 to conduct research on the granites of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada and to serve as adviser in the Office of the Chief Geologist. In 1995 he retired from the USGS, but continued his research as an emeritus scientist until his death.
The Department of the Interior honored his many accomplishments with its Meritorious (1970) and Distinguished (1979) Service Awards, and in 1980 he received the Presidential Meritorious Executive Award. He also received many professional awards and served on a wide range of national and international scientific panels.
Many organizations sought Peckâ€™s scientific and management expertise, including the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, Sandia Laboratories and Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, as well as many universities. In addition, he was Head of the Delegation to the International Geological Congress in Moscow, USSR, 1984; United States Delegate to the Assembly in Durham, England of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earthâ€™s Interior, 1977; and a Member of the US/USSR Joint Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation, 1972. He also served as Chairman of the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology and was a distinguished member of many professional associations and societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the Society of Economic Geologists.