2019 Gilbert H. Cady Award

Presented to C. Blaine Cecil

C. Blaine Cecil

C. Blaine Cecil
US Geological Survey


Citation by Bill DiMichele

The 2019 recipient of the Gilbert H. Cady Award is C. Blaine Cecil, retired from a 32-year career with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) during which he studied coal from numerous perspectives and authored some of the most influential papers in the field, particularly those emphasizing climate as a principal control on peat/coal formation. During his long career Blaine has mentored, collaborated with, and advanced the careers of many younger scientists. These collaborations have brought to fruition several remarkably complex, multidisciplinary projects involving colleagues from the USGS, state geological surveys, universities, and industry. He is a Research Collaborator of the Smithsonian Institution.  Blaine also was chair of the GSA Coal Division, and helped establish the Medlin Scholarship program and the student best-paper award.

Blaine received his collegiate education at West Virginia University. A BS in chemistry led to a chemist position with Allied Chemical Corporation, before he returned to graduate study in geology. After his PhD he taught at Colgate University before moving to the USGS. There Blaine’s studies of coal geology began with the Pennsylvanian System Stratotype project, during which he began to question prevailing deltaic models of coal formation. His field studies were complimented by studies of mineral matter and geochemistry of coal. In the early 1980s, Blaine began to focus on conditions of coal formation, including a search for modern analogues of peat formation. He found these analogues in Indonesia. The result of his studies was a series of highly influential publications, beginning with 1985 and 1990 examinations of climate controls on Pennsylvanian peat formation, a GSA Special Paper, “Modern and Ancient Coal Forming Environments”, and an ambitious study of a single coal horizon across the North American continent, examining paleoclimate context and geological expression.  His studies in Indonesia and on the origin of Pennsylvanian coal formed the core of the highly influential SEPM volume, “Climate Controls on Stratigraphy”.

Blaine continues to be active in research, returning most recently to the study of quartz chemistry, dust, and the origin of sedimentary chert.  His intellectual breadth, unwavering focus on accuracy and the “principle of total available evidence”, and his inclusive and collaborative approach have inspired and continue to inspire many of us.  His receipt of the Cady Award is a fitting recognition to a long career of important contributions and significant mentorship.


Response by C. Blaine Cecil

I am honored to be among the recipients of the GSA Energy Geology Division Cady Award.  An individual award, such as the Cady Award, only comes in response to the work, support, and collaboration of many colleagues. I want to thank some of those many.  

To my University colleagues, I want to acknowledge the following: first, my Graduate Advisor, Professor Milton Heald [West Virginia University (WVU)], who was a constant source of scientific inspiration, especially on the chemistry of quartz and mechanisms of silica cementation of sandstones; Professor Alan C. Donaldson (WVU) always provided encouragement while in keen pursuit of his own scientific curiosity; Professor John Renton (WVU), a principle collaborator and modern revolutionary on the origin of mineral matter in coal; and Professor Ronald West (Kansas State University) who provided stratigraphic expertise on the Pennsylvanian Subsystem in Western Pangea during our work on paleoclimate, sedimentation, and the origin of Pennsylvanian cyclothems.

I also want to acknowledge the following fellow recipients of the Cady award who have been inspirational collaborators at some point in time during the past forty years: 1) Professor Tommy (Tom) L. Phillips (U. of Illinois) who called my attention to paleoclimate and the origin of coal; 2) Dr. Robert Kosanke (USGS) for his insightful collaboration and work on paleoclimate and lycopod extinction; 3) Dr. Harold Gluskoter (USGS) for his collaboration on, and USGS support of, our modern analogue studies in Indonesia and Australia; 4) Dr. Cortland Eble (Kentucky Geological Survey) for his never ending pursuit and application of Carboniferous palynology to a host of scientific problems related to the origin of coal and coal-bearing strata; and 5) Dr. William (Bill) DiMichele for his numerous insightful discussions and his continuous support and scientific exchange of ideas.

I extend a special thanks to the following Federal and State Geological Survey (GS) colleagues: 1) Frank T. Dulong (USGS) and Sandra G. Neuzil (USGS) who were an integral and essential part of all my USGS scientific endeavors; Robert Stamm’s (USGS) conodont biostratigraphy was an essential part of numerous projects; Dr. Ione Taylor  (USGS) provided untiring support for the publication of SEPM Special Publication 77; 2) State Geological Survey colleagues Vik Skema and Bill Bragonier (PA); Nick Fedorko, Mitch Blake, and Bill Grady (WV); Jim Cobb, and Don Chesnut, (KY); John Nelson and Scott Elrick (IL) were essential contributors to the resolution of complex intra- and interstate stratigraphic problems as well as basic coal geology research questions.  

Finally, but foremost, I thank my family.  First, I thank my wife, Rosemary Cecil, for her never-ending support and encouragement of my wonderings, often far afield, to “look at rocks. ” Her constant support in numerous other aspects of my career is gratefully acknowledged.  I thank my parents, Howard and Elsie Cecil, who witnessed the beginnings of my interest in geology.  My daughter, Dr. Jane Ann Cecil, has faithfully followed my scientific pursuits since she was old enough to talk.  Jane’s mother, Dr. Carol Sue Miles, was supportive of my early career in geology.  My brother, Dr. Earl A. Cecil, who at 86 years of age still visits chert outcrops with me and calls with geological questions.   

To any others that I may have forgotten to mention, but who contributed to whatever small successes I may have had, I thank you for your colleagueship and sincerely apologize for the oversight.  It has been, and continues to be a great ride thanks to all.