Karl Mensch Waage
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Karl Mensch Waage
This 1986 portrait, painted by Rudolph Zallinger, depicts Waage in the field in South Dakota, with the Fox Hills in the background.

Karl Mensch Waage (b. 1915, d. 1999) was born December 15, 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Influenced early on by an amateur rock and mineral collector, he entered Princeton University in 1935 with an interest in geology. Having been introduced to the geology of the American West by Erling Dorf, Waage’s senior thesis was on the stratigraphy of the Upper Cretaceous Fox Hills Formation in the Lance Creek area of Wyoming.

Waage earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1946, with a dissertation on the refractory clays of the Lower Cretaceous Dakota Group of the Colorado Front Range. Hired that year by Yale University, he extended his work on the Dakota Group, clarifying its relationship to the underlying Morrison Formation, drawing attention to the importance of regional unconformities that represented significant time hiatuses, revising its stratigraphy, and providing an interpretation of its depositional environment.

 

In the mid-1950s, Waage refocused his attention on the Fox Hills Formation in its type area in South Dakota. His enthusiasm for this subject was to mark his research for the rest of his career. His field studies culminated in a 1968 monograph, The Type Fox Hills Formation, Cretaceous (Maestrichtian), South Dakota (Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 27), describing the facies relationships, lithologic units, and molluscan zonation. He showed that this formation represented a transition from the environment of a clastic barrier shelf through that of the shoreface of a barrier bar complex during the final retreat of the Late Cretaceous sea.

This work set a standard for paleoenvironmental studies at a time when such studies were first gaining prominence. From the large, well-documented collections amassed during many field seasons, Waage, with his student Neil Landman, produced a monograph on the systematics, life history and distribution of the beautifully preserved scaphited ammonites.

Waage was Director of the Yale Peabody Museum from 1979 through 1982. He and Carl Dunbar wrote a textbook on historical geology, continuing a tradition begun by Charles Schuchert. Retiring in 1986, he wrote several more papers on scaphites and, in 1999, just before his death, co-authored a final manuscript on Holocene fossils from West Haven, Connecticut, a project he had begun 30 years earlier (see Postilla 225, “Post-glacial Fossils from Long Island Sound Off West Haven, Connecticut,” 2001).

—Modified from Neil H. Landman, Geol. Soc. America Memorials 31, 2000